Typhoon Sweeps Yayoi Kusama Pumpkin Out to Sea

Viral footage shows Typhoon Lupit’s 78-mile-per-hour winds whisking a “Pumpkin” sculpture from its seaside perch at Benesse Art Site in Naoshima, Japan.

Still from a video showing Typhoon Lupit damaging “Pumpkin” (1994) by Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama might be more visible now than ever before. Widely known for her immersive Infinity Rooms, the Japanese artist, 92, is enjoying a flurry of major exhibitions around the world this summer, including at Berlin’s Gropius Bau, London’s Tate Modern, and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. Perhaps most notable is “Cosmic Nature,” which transforms the New York Botanical Gardens into a fantasy realm populated by her otherworldly, plant-like creations. 

Though her work’s bold, vaguely cartoonish qualities lend themselves well to going viral, a widely shared video of Typhoon Lupit sweeping one of her famed Pumpkin sculptures into the Seto Inland Sea off the coast of Japan recently did the social media rounds for a different reason. The work suffered major damage when the storm’s downpours and 78-mile-per-hour winds whisked the spotted gourd away from its seaside perch at Naoshima’s Benesse Art Site, where the six-foot-tall sculpture had sat since 1994 as Kusama’s first en plein air work. The video shows choppy waves thrashing Pumpkin about relentlessly, exposing its hollow insides and cracks in its surface.

While the sculpture indeed suffered damage, Benesse Art Site staffers were able to retrieve the sculpture and announced plans to restore and re-exhibit the work. “We have already collected the parts and we’re about to inspect the damage and also assess if it’s possible to recover the work,” a museum spokesperson told the Art Newspaper. “We are willing to re-exhibit the work on the same spot but we don’t know how long this [restoration] process will take.” Staffers at Benesse Art Site usually haul away works for safekeeping in anticipation of typhoons, but couldn’t reach the work in time as the storm rapidly approached on Sunday night. 

Pumpkin also isn’t the only Kusama sculpture to have suffered damage in recent memory. In 2017, a similar pumpkin endured a blow when a clumsy museum goer stumbled inside an Infinity Room called All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (2016) at the Hirshhorn Museum while taking a selfie. 

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