Jeff and Penny Vinik’s practice of bringing immersive art experiences to Tampa will continue this fall at the Tampa Museum of Art. It’s not plastic balls or Legos, but a mirrored room that seems to go on forever.
In September, the Vinik Family Foundation will loan the museum one of Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama’s popular Infinity Mirror rooms from their collection. "Love is Calling" incorporates soft sculptures on the ceiling and floor, filled with changing colored lights in a mirrored room. Audio of Kusama reciting a love poem in Japanese will play.
The Viniks are also sponsoring the museum’s other fall exhibitions, centered around the concept of love. One features the work of famed artist Robert Indiana. The other features a new sculptural work commissioned for the museum.
The couple owns Kasuma’s mirrored room, which has been in storage. After the exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art, they plan to install it at Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s $3 billion Water Street Tampa project, a mixed-use hub for residences, office space, hotels, retail and entertainment.
"We liked it because it’s very colorful and is also one of her largest rooms," said Penny Vinik. "It can accommodate eight or nine people, where most of the rooms can only hold one or two. It’s also the only one that includes her voice, which is a cool component."
If Kasuma’s name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, it’s likely you’ve seen her work on social media. Active since the 1950s, the 89-year-old artist creates colorful sculptures and installations, usually adorned with her trademark polka dots, which she’s also prone to wear. Some of her Infinity Mirror rooms integrate her sculptures, while lights and water used in others give the illusion of being suspended in outer space. They are highly selfie-worthy, which has helped catapult Kusama back into the public eye.
Last year, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C. held a 50-year retrospective exhibition, "Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors," which included six of her rooms. The exhibition, which now travels to other museums around the country, has been so wildly successful that it has broken attendance records and was included among W magazine’s Most Instagram-able Art of 2017 list. Also in 2017, the Yayoi Kusama museum opened in Tokyo.
How does one come to own such an installation? The Viniks saw "Love is Calling" at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 2016. It was available for sale, so they purchased it, with the plan to exhibit it in Tampa.
It’s in line with their past work to bring art to the region. In 2016, the foundation presented the Beach Tampa, an installation that filled the Amalie Arena with white balls. In 2017, they brought artist Nathan Sawaya’s impressive Lego sculptures with the Art of the Brick exhibition.
For "Love is Calling," the Viniks thought it best to partner with the Tampa Museum of Art.
"There’s a lot of specific requirements that we felt would be best dealt with through a museum," Penny Vinik explained. "You have security, ticketing and long lines."
Long lines, indeed. The exhibit, which will open Sept. 26 and run through Jan. 2019, is expected to be so popular that the museum will use a timed ticketing system, as well as make other accommodations for the crowds.
The museum has dubbed its spectrum of offerings "Season of Love." Perhaps the most iconic artistic interpretation of love is Robert Indiana’s famous Love sculpture series, included in the final exhibition of the fall season, "Robert Indiana: A Sculpture Retrospective," Oct. 24 through March 17.
Organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., the exhibition is in celebration of Indiana’s 90th birthday. The Tampa Museum of Art is the exhibit’s only other venue. Some never-before-shown pieces from the Love sculpture series will be on display, along with his earliest assemblages from the 1950s and his most recent series of painted bronzes.
The season also includes "Patricia Cronin in Response to Classical Antiquity: Conversations with the Collection," Aug. 16 through Jan. 6. It’s the brainchild of chief curator and Richard E. Perry curator of Greek and Roman art Seth Pevnick and Joanna Robotham, curator of modern and contemporary art.
The museum commissioned Brooklyn-based sculptor Patricia Cronin to interpret one of the ancient objects from the permanent collection. Cronin chose a first century fragmentary torso of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, which she will recreate as a complete 10-foot-tall sculpture with a stone torso and translucent arms, legs and head.
Asking artists to create works in response to ancient objects is a way to bridge the gap between the museum’s collection of ancient art and contemporary art, which Pevnick and Robotham hope will become a series.
"Were not an encyclopedic museum, which presents an interesting juxtaposition often, between works of art that were created many centuries ago and works that were created recently," said Pevnick. "Sometimes those relate to each other pretty clearly and other times they don’t, so one of our challenges is to try make these connections."