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Artist Yayoi Kusama Is Creating a Whimsical Balloon for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The artist’s studio collaborated with ‘balloon specialists’ to create the inflatable artwork

A rendering of Kusama's design. (Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade)
smithsonianmag.com

Yayoi Kusama has become an international sensation in recent years, but catching a glimpse of her riotous paintings and installations can be a challenge. Exhibitions of works by the 90-year-old Japanese artist have shattered museum attendance records, sent fans clamoring for limited tickets and even prompted scalpers to try and capitalize on an eager market. Now, as Sarah Cascone of artnet News reports, millions of people will be able to enjoy a Kusama artwork when a whimsical balloon that she developed makes its debut at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Love Flies Up to the Sky, as the balloon is called, is an orange and red sun-like figure, covered in Kusama’s signature dots. It is based on motifs that appear in the artist’s My Eternal Soul series, a collection of paintings that swirl with vibrant flowers, faces, pumpkins, dots and amoeba-like shapes, which Kusama began working on in 2009.

Kusama’s studio conceived of the design, and according to a media release, Macy’s team of “balloon specialists” skilled in 3D modeling, aerodynamic design and fabrication have been working to translate the artist’s vision into balloon format—a process that has involved carefully painting more than 300 dots onto the artwork. The final product will measure 30 feet long, 36 feet wide and 34 feet tall, reports Maximilíano Durón of ARTnews, and around 20 people will be needed to walk the balloon along the parade’s route from the Upper West Side to the Macy’s flagship building in Herald Square.

Yayoi_Kusama.jpg
Yayoi Kusama (Wikipedia)

“We’re able to take an artist’s creation and with our in-house artists bring it to life,” Susan Tercero, the parade’s executive producer, tells Durón. “We’re excited to re-create Kusama’s artistry and bring it to a parade scale.”

Kusama certainly has no trouble drawing large crowds of her own. The artist’s 2017 retrospective at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, for instance, was visited by 160,000 people and helped push spring attendance numbers up to 475,000, the highest they have been since 1974. But the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will offer Kusama a chance to show one of her artworks on a mass scale; the annual holiday event draws more than 3.5 million spectators, with an additional 50 million people watching on television.

The Rabit balloon by artist Jeff Koons floated in Times Square during the 81st annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 22, 2007 in New York City. (Hiroko Masuike/Getty Images)
A Takashi Murakami balloon floats down 6th avenue during the 84th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 2010. (Ben Hider/Getty Images)
Tim Burton’s B balloon made its way down Seventh through Times Square during the 85th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York November 24, 2011. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

The initiative to bring Kusama’s design to the parade is part of the event's broader Blue Sky Gallery program, which was launched in 2005 and invites renowned contemporary artists to contribute to the procession. Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and Tim Burton are among those who have designed balloons for the project; Kusama, according to Durón, will be the first female artist to take part.

“We can’t wait,” Tercero says, “for millions to enjoy the hypnotic, colorful and whimsical beauty of Love Flies Up to the Sky this Thanksgiving.”

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including NYmag.com, Flavorwire and Tina Brown Media's Women in the World.

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