A Priceless Yayoi Kusama Sculpture Has Been Swept Into the Ocean

On Sunday evening, Typhoon Lupit reached Naoshima, a Japanese island located in the Seto Inland Sea that is known for its impressive art. But although many of its offerings are located inside museums, its most famous attraction has long been perched at the end of a pier. That work—Yayoi Kusama’s famed Pumpkin sculpture—has since been swept into the sea.

Luckily, the work was retrieved. Alarming video footage shows the sculpture tossing about in the waves on Monday, with at least one visible crack. Benesse Art Site, the organization that owns and cares for the work, confirmed that the sculpture had been damaged but that it can indeed be restored. 

Despite the clear likelihood of a happy ending, the story has alarmed art fans around the globe, while racking up a growing number of video views. When past typhoon warnings have been issued, the Benesse Art Site staff has had time to temporarily remove the work, according to The Washington Post. In this case, however, it appears that the strength of the storm progressed more rapidly than expected. More than 33,000 individuals were evacuated when the storm reached China; it appeared to weaken to cyclone level once it got to Japan. 

Pumpkin—which is over eight feet wide—was first installed on the pier in 1994. At the time it was reportedly Kusama’s first open-air work. Since then, the popularity of her joyful pumpkins has only increased, as has the demand for her en plein air installations. Currently, the artist is enjoying a wide-ranging exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden, where her colorful creations can be seen amid lawns and extensive flower beds.

In 2017, a Kusama yellow pumpkin suffered a blow Stateside when a visitor stumbled in an infinity room installation at the Hirshhorn Museum while attempting to take a selfie. Still, the risk posed by extreme weather is without a doubt the more alarming 21st-first century kind. 

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