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Japanese Artist's Giant Polka Dots Take Over West Side

By Mathew Katz | August 15, 2012 11:10am

CHELSEA — Polka dots are in this summer.

A Japanese artist has covered parts of Chelsea and Hudson River Park with an overwhelming display of polka dots, lending a whimsical feel to both the park and an under-construction condo building.

Both large-scale outdoor art projects are part of the Whitney Museum's "Summer of Kusama" — a celebration of artist Yayoi Kusama current retrospective running through the end of September. The Tokyo-based artist first came to New York in the late 1950s and exploded onto the scene.

“New York became a huge source of inspiration for Kusama and helped define her art," said Adam Weinberg, the Whitney's director.

The first of the installations, "Guidepost to the New Space," decorated Hudson River Park's Pier 45 with dozens of bright red polka-dotted lumps not unlike a collection of mushrooms from "Alice in Wonderland." The scenery, supported by both the park and the Upper East Side's Gagosian Gallery, is meant to interact with the skyline, transforming it into a fantastical world along the Hudson River at Christopher Street.

The bigger, arguably more visible installation is further up, near West 14th Street and Ninth Avenue, where Kusama draped a new condo building with her signature "nerve" motif featuring snaking lines of yellow dots on a black background.

The pattern, originally made famous by Kusama's 1994 painting "Yellow Trees," was printed onto 150-foot-wide, 120-foot-high mesh netting and wrapped around the building. The same pattern filled subway station ads for the Kusama retrospective for months.

The project helped bring attention to the new condo, 345meatpacking, especially among those passing by.

Gail Windson, a tourist on her way to the High Line, stopped in the middle of West 14th Street for a closer look at the 12-story development.

"It looks like a big yellow ladybug," she said, scratching her head. "Construction's everywhere in this city. I like it so much better than regular construction."

The building's developer lauded the chance to incorporate art into the construction.

“Our development projects have always had a deep connection to the arts, so we are overjoyed to partner with the Whitney and Gagosian in this first of its kind installation, allowing us to bring Kusama’s incredible work to even more New Yorkers,” said Joe McMillan, CEO of DDG Partners.

“Our building’s location at the gateway to the Meatpacking District, the future home of the new Whitney, will make this public installation a truly special collaboration. We look forward to welcoming the Whitney as our neighbor.”

The mesh is part of an emerging trend in the city of developers covering up unsightly construction or infrastructure with mesh art. Earlier this month, the Empire State Building covered a loading dock with a faux facade emulating its own architectural flair.

The Kusama retrospective and public art installations will run until Sept. 30.