Anyone who has dismissed the pumpkin as a squat vegetable suitable only for Halloween lanterns and Thanksgiving pies should head forthwith to London’s Victoria Miro gallery between Tuesday September 16 and Friday December 19. There, strikingly displayed in the gallery’s unique water garden, is a series of extraordinary new sculptures (£560,000-£1.2m) that turn the humble squash into a thing of noble beauty. Created by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, these monumental bronze pumpkins (such as Pumpkin, 2013, edition of eight plus two artist’s proofs, pictured) have been two years in the making and are the largest bronze pieces the artist has ever created.
Kusama’s fascination with pumpkins goes back to the very start of her career (the plant appears in some of her paintings and works on paper as early as 1948). “It seems that pumpkins do not inspire much respect,” she wrote in her autobiography Infinity Net, “but I was enchanted by their unassuming and winsome form. What appealed to me most was the pumpkin’s generous unpretentiousness. That and its solid, spiritual base.”
By the 1970s, the vegetable had become a recurrent theme, and in the years since she has made both minuscule and giant versions that play with scale with an Alice in Wonderland-like sense of amazement; some are trapped in boxes, while others are lost in their own reflections in mirrored rooms.
A collection of new dot paintings forms the bulk of an exhibition, Paintings and Sculptures, running in parallel (until Saturday October 4) in Victoria Miro’s main gallery. Intricate, occasionally playful and always verging on the surreal, these are intriguing works that, like the magnificent bronze pieces on show in the garden, cause you to see the familiar in a gloriously unfamiliar way.