Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors at the AGO

"With just one polka dot, nothing can be achieved.

In the universe, there is the sun, the moon, the earth, and hundreds of millions of stars. All of us live in the unfathomable mystery and infinitude of the universe."

- Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

I can't remember when I first heard about Yayoi Kusama and her stunning Infinity Mirrors exhibitbut I do know that I've been wanting and trying to see it for years. It has seemed like wherever I have travelled, the show has either just finished or is starting after I leave!

When I heard last year that the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) was going to be hosting this exhibition (the only Canadian city to do so), I've eagerly awaited its arrival. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the media preview of this extraordinary show, which officially opened to members of the public this past weekend to overwhelming demand.

When the AGO opened the booking portal for tickets in January, thousands and thousands of people logged in, waiting for hours to snag a ticket to one of the hottest shows of the year. In three days, the AGO sold an astonishing 30,000 tickets, selling out well before the show opened! One of the most exciting things about this show is that it is drawing attention and a younger audience to the AGO, generating energy and excitement which will hopefully continue into the future attracting more shows like this one. For myself, this show inspired me to buy a membership to the AGO to explore everything the Gallery has to offer and engage in new ways.  

Infinity Mirrors and the dreamworlds they create in six immersive rooms have to be seen in person to get the full effect. Yes, they look beautiful in photos, but are even more dazzling to experience. These worlds were created by Yayoi Kusama, the brilliantly talented 88 year old artist who lives in Tokyo (voluntarily in a mental hospital since 1977), and still actively creates art today.  In addition to experiencing six of Kusama's most iconic works, there are more than 90 paintings (including her early Infinity Net paintings), sculptures, photographs, rare archival materials, and works on paper from the 1950s to current day to see.

In addition to the ticketed exhibit, you can see her 'Narcissus Garden' installation on the second floor (on view from February 24 - April 29, 2018), a beautiful 'garden' made of mirrored balls, which is open to general admission.

Kusama has been creating art and breaking new ground for over 60 years. During her time in New York (between 158 - 1973), Kusama moved in circles with fellow artists Andy Warhol and Allan Kaprow. It was during this time that she began creating her signature polka dot and net designs, transforming them into paintings, soft sculptures, installations, and performance-based art.

The first use of mirrors came with Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field, 1965 (the red-and-white polka dot themed installation), which multiplied and magnified the repetitive effect she was hoping to achieve, transcending physical limitations and creating an immersive experience. 

Kusama was the first woman to have a solo presentation at Venice's Biennale's Japanese Pavilion in 1993, and was named on of the world's most influential people by Time Magazine in 2016.

Yayoi Kusama Pumpkins

Above, the famous 'Kusama pumpkins' can be viewed in her work called All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins. You aren't allowed to take photos while inside the room, but you can when outside the door looking in. You will also be escorted inside with a member of staff. This is apparently due to pumpkins being damaged in previous exhibitions held elsewhere and the art is fragile.

The pumpkins first appeared in some of Kusama’s drawings from the late 1940s and has regularly shown up in her paintings, sculptures, drawings and installations. Her first pumpkin mirrored room was staged in 1991 and later at the 1993 Venice Biennale. The concept of this room is for viewers to be transported into a space which recalls fairytales and fantasy. 

 

Love Forever is a trippy feast for your eyes, allowing up to two viewers to look through small peepholes into this room. Looking inside, you can see yourself in a mirror directly opposite as well as the other viewer, making it feel quite voyeuristic. Kusama was experimenting with new technology when she created this room, which features dazzling lights, patterns and colours which change every few seconds. Her 1966 exhibition featured this work and she distributed buttons with her 'Love Forever' message printed on them. For her, this work stood for civil rights, sexual liberation, and the anti-war movement in the 1960s. 

 

The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away takes you into a world of lights and mirrors resembling a galaxy. Hundreds of LED lights flicker and sparkle while you are inside activating the environment and becoming immersed into the infinite space. It is absolutely breathtaking to experience! I just wish that you could have longer than the allocated 30 seconds to experience it and really take it in. 

 

Phalli’s Field arose from Kusama wanting a new way to create a hallucinatory scene of phallic-like shapes covered in red polka dots. Up until the point this room was created, Kusama had spent much of her time between 1962 and 1964 sewing thousands of stuffed fabric tubes and affixing them to furniture and other objects to create her sculptures; however, this became physically and mentally tiring. Her breakthrough moment came when she began to use mirrors to achieve the repetitive effect she envisioned, transcending her physical limitations, and making it an immersive experience for viewers. 

 

Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity is another mesmerizing world comprised of flickering gold lanterns that seem to go on forever into black infinite space. Kusama's room is a reflection on the experience of death and potential afterlife, recalling the Japanese tradition of toro nagashi, a ceremony which sees paper lanterns float down a river to guide ancestral spirits back to the resting places on the final night of the summer Obon Festival. 

 

Dots Obsession – Love Transformed Into Dots has you enter a large gallery room which has a rosy glow from the large pink polka-dotted balloons hanging from the ceiling and placed around the floor. Near the back of the room, you can enter a room inside one of the balloons, feeling a bit like you are entering a fuschia fairy-tale world. On the other end of the room, you get the opposite experience by peering into a small hole into a dazzling pink infinity mirror room. 

 

The Obliteration Room is the final room of the exhibit. This room invites you to participate in completing the work. Upon entering the stark white room, set up to look like an everyday home with everyday objects, you are handed a sheet of coloured dot stickers and invited to place them anywhere in the room and on objects. I would love to see what this room looks like when the exhibition closes! Kusama's concept of obliteration is to find and create new expression on this white space as the coloured dots invite each visitor to participate on a journey to infinity one dot at a time. 

For each of the mirrored rooms, you will join a line to enter. You may have the opportunity to go in by yourself or with two to four other people. You need to leave your bags just outside the exhibit (watched by AGO staff) and can enter for twenty to thirty seconds depending on the room. The staff have a stopwatch to time each entry and will give a soft knock on the door to let you know when five seconds are left. I wish that you could have more time inside the rooms as they are so dazzling and extraordinary that there just isn't enough time to properly take everything in. But, on the other hand, it forces you to be present and enjoy the moments you do have. 

This extraordinary show is a visual delight, and you are encouraged to share your photos with the hashtag #infinitekusama. Part of the appeal and high demand to see Kusama's show has been driven through photos shared through Instagram. While you can bring your cameras and smartphones, you cannot bring in tripods or selfie sticks. 

There will be a new batch of tickets released by the AGO on Tuesday March 6th at 10am online only. There will also be a very limited number of same-day timed tickets available on-site at the gallery. The show runs from March 3 to May 27, 2018. 

WMW and the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal

I first discovered the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal after walking through the Palais Royal a couple of years ago. I looked it up on Instagram to find that they had a beautiful account that I began to follow, enjoying the regular dose of inspiration from the hotel and its surrounding areas. 

The Grand Hotel du Palais Royal is a small luxury, five star boutique hotel, just a stone’s throw from the Louvre and across the road from the stunning Palais Royal. With interiors designed by by Pierre-Yves Rochon, the hotel is chic and elegant, wrapping you in private luxury from the hustle and bustle outside. It is also part of an 18th century building with aspects of it holding a historical designation, including the facade. Some of the 68 rooms and suites in the hotel have their own balcony with stunning views of Paris and famous landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur. Throughout the hotel, fresh flowers and plants greet you as a nod to the stunning Palais Royal gardens on its doorstep. You can also indulge your senses at the Le Lulli Restaurant, Lounge Bar, and Carita Spa

The Palais Royal area is a fantastic location when visiting Paris due to its proximity to so many of the city's main attractions:

- Famous monuments and sites: Palais Royal with its beautifully landscaped gardens and black and white podiums, Jardin des Tuileries, and the Comédie Française theatre;

- Some of Paris's chicest boutiques, restaurants, brasseries, and cafés, including shops in the covered arcades of Palais Royal, rue Saint Honoré, and Place des Victoires (including Christian Louboutin, Pierre Hardy, Marc Jacobs, and Stella McCartney);

- World-renowned museums, galleries, and art dealers, including the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, and National Museum of Modern Art (Georges Pompidou Centre)

I recently stayed at this beautiful hotel, feeling like royalty from the moment I arrived. An attentive doorman was waiting to open the door to my taxi, sheltering me from the downpour of rain with an umbrella overhead and whisked me inside. Inside, I received a warm welcome from Concierge, who checked me in quickly while also explaining all the amenities and services available. I then had a bellboy guide me to my suite. 

I stayed in the Palais Royal Suite, which took my breath away as soon as the door opened. When you step inside, you are greeted by a plush chaise lounge and small terrace overlooking the courtyard, and a staircase (!) leading up to the rest of the suite. As I walked upstairs, I took in the warm and welcoming bedroom, chic, modern bathroom made of glass and marble, and inviting living room with a walk-out terrace. I actually felt happy that it was stormy outside so that I could change into the cozy bathrobe and relax in my mini palace in the heart of Paris, watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle on the hour.

The suite is on the 7th floor and has private access. The view from the living room looks out to the Opera Garnier and Sacre Coeur Basilica, as well as looking over the Palais Royal and street below where you can watch the world go by. 

The jaw-dropping bathroom is all glass, light and marble, with a double sink, deep bathtub with a lovely window view, and separate shower stall. Those who follow me know that high quality toiletries are always a sign of a great hotel, so I was very happy to see that luxurious Atelier Cologne products were provided, as well as the extra thoughtful touches including vanity and dental kits. Make a cup of coffee with your own Nespresso machine and walk out to your private terrace, where you can gaze out to the Eiffel Tower and Louvre. 

After enjoying a delicious buffet breakfast in the hotel's restaurant, Le Lulli, take a stroll into the Palais Royal with its chic black and white-striped podiums and perfectly manicured gardens to enjoy a coffee at one of Paris’s most popular coffee shops, Café Kitsune.

After a day of exploring Paris, pop into the hotel's cozy Lounge Bar for some tea and pastries. Or, enjoy a masterfully mixed cocktail or tasty bite to eat, open from 11am to 11pm. If you're feeling fancy, enjoy the Champagne Bar, where you can choose from over 30 different selections. 

At the Le Lulli Restaurant, which is housed inside a winter garden flooded with light, enjoy exquisite French cuisine by Executive Chef Clement Le Norcy, trained by Michelin Star Head Chefs Francois Adamski and Michel Portos. Le Norcy works with quality, seasonal, regional, and organic products in his creations. For reservations, contact lelulli@ghparis.com or +33 142 96 72 20.

I enjoyed a wonderful hour-long massage at the Carita Spa. Part of the personalized luxury touch was the fact that service can be upon request until late in the evening. After arriving on a Friday evening during a storm after a long week, I rang the Concierge who arranged a massage for later in the evening, which was divine. The Spa features a large Turkish bath, two treatment rooms, a beauty salon (including hairdressing and nail services), and wide menu of services, as well as a fitness room with state-of-the-art exercise equipment and personal training. You can also purchase Carita products and Kure Bazaar nail polish on site. You can also enjoy the services of the Spa if you aren't a guest at the hotel; however, access to the fitness centre and hammam is reserved for the guests of the Carita Spa and Hotel. The Spa is open daily from 9am to 10pm. 

A unique offer by the hotel is to enjoy an exclusive tour of the Palais Royal and learn about its history, including it being the former palace of Cardinal Richelieu (originally built in 1639) and how it became the most important market in Europe in the 18th century. The tour lasts between 1.5 to 2 hours with tea included at the hotel lounge. The price per person is 130 € per person (2 persons minimum, 55 € per additional person).

Additional services offered by the hotel include 24 hour room service, daily turndown service with complimentary water, laundry and dry cleaning services, highly trained 'Clefs d'or' concierge, a business centre, valet services, and complimentary wifi. Multiple languages are spoken by staff including French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. The Concierge can also help you with everything from booking restaurant reservations to theatre tickets to key sights and attractions in Paris - nothing is too much trouble!

 

Getting There:

The hotel is easy to find. If arriving by plane, it takes about 45 minutes from Charles de Gaulle Airport, and 30-45 minutes from Orly Airport. If you arrive via the Eurostar, the hotel can be reached in about 15 - 20 minutes by taxi from the Gard du Nord or by Metro (lines 1 and 7; Palais Royal - Musee de Louvre). From Gare de Lyon, it is about a 10 - 15 minute taxi ride. You can also take the bus via lines 21, 48, 69, 72, or 81. There is also a Velib bike station about 50 metres from the hotel. 

The hotel also offers private transfers, which can be arranged with the concierge team prior to, and during, your arrival.

 

Paris City Guide

Need some more Paris inspiration? Check out some of my favourite things to do in Paris here!

 

 

Source: grandhoteldupalaisroyal

Hotel München Palace

In making my annual Christmas Market visit to a new European city, I stayed at the lovely Hotel München Palace in Munich for part of my stay. This family run, five star boutique hotel is located in the beautiful, upscale Bogenhausen quarter of the city. The hotel is owned by the famous Bavarian restaurateur family Kuffler. This hotel provides a personal touch that focuses on making sure that its guests have a comfortable, warm stay in an exclusive, elegant, and private environment. 

Walking into this hotel for the first time, I was warmly greeted by a sharply dressed doorman and friendly reception staff. The small but warm and inviting contemporary lobby was festively decorated with a large Christmas tree twinkling in the corner with cozy armchairs and sofas to relax in. My first impression of the hotel was that it felt like a well-kept secret in Munich, an exclusive hotel to enjoy in privacy and peace. 

A boutique hotel, the Hotel München Palace has 74 rooms all individually decorated in an elegant, modern style by Kuffler Inn Design. You can choose from a classic single room through to one of the suites in the hotel, including the large and luxurious Presidential Suite for the ultimate in comfort. All of the rooms have parquet flooring, a minibar, safe, a/c, a flatscreen television, a PC connection, and high-speed internet access. 

I had the pleasure of staying in one of the Deluxe Double Rooms. My room was cozy and comfortable, with a lovely homey feeling. Plush furnishings and a comfortable bed with high quality white bed linens envelop you when you tuck in during the night. Beautiful details included parquet flooring, high ceilings, and a marble bathroom. My room had a large window overlooking the interior courtyard, where I enjoyed looking at the Bavarian architecture facing in. My room also had high speed internet and a television with multiple international channels.

Those who follow me know I have a big thing for the toiletries offered by hotels, and is one of the first things I look for. I truly believe that the sign of a quality hotel is the provision of quality brands for its toiletries. So, I was very happy to walk into the bathroom to see luxurious Molton Brown products to enjoy!

Inside the hotel is a Bar, Restaurant, and Garden to enjoy. Breakfast in the morning was a complete joy with a large spread of delicious food to choose from to start your day off right! The Palace restaurant features international cuisine and Bavarian specialties as well as the fantastic breakfast buffet and afternoon tea service. Head into the cozy Palace Bar to enjoy a cocktail, which is a popular meeting spot. The Palace Garden is a wonderful place to enjoy a drink, lunch, or dinner in this oasis in the middle of Munich. 

Feel like relaxing? Indulge in a pampering shower, sauna or steam bath, or get some exercise with the gym's quality equipment, all with access to the rooftop terrace. Even if you don't fancy working out, you can head up to the rooftop terrace to enjoy some beautiful views of the surrounding neighbourhood. 

The hotel also offers various event room facilities for conferences and private events, as well as business suites for meetings up to six people. Other services to enjoy from the hotel is a complimentary minibar, daily newspaper, bicycle rental, 24 hour room service, concierge services, garage parking, limousine service, and shoe shine services. 

Near the hotel, visit the sprawling Englischer Garten, or take in some culture at the Philharmonie and Opera, Villa Stuck Museum, or Prinzregententheater, or see the Friedensengel Monument

Getting into the city centre takes about 15 minutes, which you can access easily by public transport. The subway and bus (Museum line) stops are a few minutes walk from the Hotel, and the city's fairgrounds (Messe and ICM) are a 10 minute drive away. 

Sketch - London's Most Glamorous Place for Afternoon Tea

Sketch has become instantly recognizable due to its iconic art deco-inspired, glamorous pink salon that is an Instagrammers dream. 

Located in Mayfair, Sketch hosts a series of bars and restaurants over two stories in a converted 18th century building. 

The Gallery, designed by India Mahdavi and David Shrigley, is the eponymous room in Sketch that features the afternoon tea, which, in my opinion (and probably many others, considering how busy it gets), is the most glamorous in London! If you're looking for a classic experience in a beautiful room, particularly with a group of girlfriends, this is a perfect place. To note, it is also open for dinner, with creatively styled and interpreted classic dishes. 

 

Sketch London Afternoon Tea

From the moment you arrive at Sketch, the service is impeccable, adding to the luxurious experience you have there. Start by choosing either a classic or Champagne afternoon tea; as you can see above, we went with the Champagne tea! Served in classic Champagne glasses, it automatically ups the glam factor. Sip your champagne slowly while taking in your surroundings, which include 239 pieces of quirky artwork lining the walls by David Shrigley - the largest group of original drawings Shrigley has ever exhibited.  

Start with creative and delicious sandwiches, served on an afternoon tea cake stand, created from stacked cups and saucers. The tastiest ones in my opinion are the coronation chicken, and truffle croque monsieur. If you fancy some more, your server will gladly bring you a refill of your favourites!

But don't forget that you've got fresh scones and cakes to enjoy as well, so don't fill up too much on the sandwiches to save room for the other things! 

You can select from freshly baked, warm plan or sultana scones, served with classic clotted cream and strawberry jam. I went with a classic plain, which was delicious. It was also a nice balance between the savoury sandwiches and sweet cakes. 

The cakes offer a nice balance of flavours, from a citrus tart, to chocolate gateaux, to bubblegum marshmallow knots (very light in flavour so not overpowering), and a delicious cheesecake pudding. 

Sketch London Afternoon Tea
Sketch London Afternoon Tea
Sketch London Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea is served between 12:30pm - 4:30pm Mondays through Sundays.

sketch Afternoon Tea as from Monday 13 March:
sketch Classic Afternoon Tea, £58 per person
Champagne Afternoon Tea, £72 per person
Children's Afternoon Tea, £29 per child - including Pat the Bear

 

Oh - and don't forget to make a stop to check out the quirky, beautiful, space-like bathroom pods before you go!