Get Lost in Yayoi Kusama’s Trippy New Hawai‘i Exhibit With Infinite Polka Dots

Honolulu biennial opens this week through May with made-you-look art.

Yayoi Kusama artist at Honolulu Biennial.
Photo: David Croxford


Colorful fluorescent dots appear throughout what looks like a pretty typical Hawai‘i apartment in a contemporary art installation by internationally renowned artist Yayoi Kusama that opens this week as part of the new Honolulu Biennial art festival.


HONOLULU Magazine got an early peek at the piece titled “I’m Here, but Nothing” by Kusama, who holds the record for the highest price paid for a work by a living female artist. While she’s done similar pieces with dots, this piece is unique to Hawai‘i because she asked helpers to pull together items that would be commonly found in homes here.


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That’s why there’s a surfboard, a Hawaiian quilt with an ulu (breadfruit) pattern, books, chairs, even the local paper. But everything is touched by fluorescent dot stickers in five colors.


If dots and Kusama sound familiar, that’s because her 2012 polka dot piece titled “Footprints of Life” traveled to Honolulu last year and was in the Ward Village IBM Building courtyard last year. This year, the Kusama installation is within the same building and is free to the public, sponsored by The Howard Hughes Corp., the lead sponsor of the biennial.


The Honolulu Biennial is being held for the first time and runs from March 8 to May 8 at nine venues featuring 33 artists, a mix of Hawai‘i and international artists. Some exhibits charge a fee while others are free. At the kick-off news conference Tuesday, March 7, curator Ngahiraka Mason guided media through some of the exhibits at The Hub, the central exhibit venue, built into the former Sports Authority store on Ward Avenue.


Mason says the festival presents an exceptional opportunity to share the art of “a very special part of the world,” one that is often defined by outsiders.” Now, this location has a chance to speak for itself.”


The gathered art offers something to engage nearly everyone, from political and social themes to more playful images. For example, a giant inflatable pink flying pig welcomed visitors to The Hub.


At the IBM building, a pink lotus flower moves at one end while a stainless steel sculpture stands in the center of the courtyard.


For related coverage, click here. For the full list of programs go to


Kusama’s works are also currently on display at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum. Six of her Infinity Mirror rooms and other artworks celebrate her 65-year career. Now 87, Kusama lives in Japan.


And the pink polka dot piece? It’s back and displayed this year in Foster Botanical Garden.


Read More Stories by Robbie Dingeman