One of the world’s most famous and beloved artists will now have an even larger platform to share her work. On the morning of November 28, a balloon by Yayoi Kusama will soar over New York City as part of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s a collaboration between the artist’s studio, which conceived the work, and Macy’s balloon specialists, who built it.
“Her work lends itself to that playful whimsy that we like to see in the sky,” Susan Tercero, the parade’s executive producer, told ARTnews. “What’s fantastic about her art, and why I think she’s so world-renowned, is that it is so accessible. Everyone can look at her art and appreciate it, understand it, and feel something from it, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The parade organizers have wanted to work with Kusama for years, Tercero said, and with an exhibition of her work set to open at David Zwirner in Chelsea on November 9, felt that now was the right time. The project is part of the parade’s Blue Sky Gallery program, begun in 2005, which has invited artists like Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, and KAWS to participate. Kusama, who is 90 and lives in Japan, will be the first woman to take part.
The parade averages around 3.5 million in-person viewers and 50 million more on television. Tercero said the parade is an opportunity to “bring fine art to a wide audience” with the aim of spurring further inquiry into art.
Kusama’s balloon—which will carry one of her signature poetic titles, Love Flies up to the Sky—recalls some of her recent ebullient paintings, taking the form of a personified sun, with an open mouth. Attached to the face are numerous red tentacles that are covered with more than 300 white polka dots, another Kusama trademark.
In terms of size, the artist’s balloon will be in the middle of the spectrum, measuring 30 feet long, 36 feet wide, and 34 feet tall. It will require about 20 people to walk it down from Central Park West on the Upper West Side to Sixth Avenue, where Macy’s flagship building sits in Herald Square.
Tercero said that they gave the artist’s studio only a few guidelines for creating the initial sketches for the balloon—the key thing is that it be round—and organizers had to make only minor adjustments to the design to give it the lift to be able to fly well once it is filled with helium.
“We’re able to take an artist’s creation and with our in-house artists bring it to life,” Tercero said. “We’re excited to re-create Kusama’s artistry and bring it to a parade scale.”