You probably all know what happened to Yayoi Kusama’s Yellow Pumpkin last summer, right?
In case you forgot, a “surprise typhoon” dislodged it from its pier and badly damaged it.
Well, the typhoon itself was not a surprise, the strong winds were. Usually, when a typhoon comes, the Yellow Pumpkin used to be moved to a secure location until it was safe to put it back to its regular spot at the end of the pier.
That time, no strong winds were planned in the area, but they came anyway. I remember that they took me by surprise too and that they messed with my plans for the day. I guess I’m not the only one whose plans they messed with.
The pumpkin was being monitored, but when it was understood that it should be moved, it was too late and it had become unsafe to do so. We should see this as a good thing. It means that whoever was in charge decided that the safety of the staff was worth more than the monetary value of the pumpkin, or even more than its notoriety. I’m not sure it would be the case everywhere.
(if you’re curious about that monetary value, know that it is not public knowledge, but the numbers I’ve heard oscillate between one and four million dollars).
So yeah, no more Yellow Pumpkin.
Since that fateful day, a lot of people have been wondering when it would return? Or even whether it would even return at all?
There are a lot of parties that have stakes in the issue, namely Kusama’s “people,” Benesse Holdings, their insurers, their lawyers, and probably a few more.
In other words, things are complicated and they take a long time. And as often in Japan, they require a lot of meetings before a decision can be reached. In this case, probably even more than usual.
Between August when the Pumpkin was swept away and last Winter, there was pretty much no word about it at all that was made public. But a couple of months ago, the English-speaking internet started to buzz around it a little bit.
I could be wrong, but I think it started with an article from the Asahi Shinbun (you can read it by clicking on the link below):
“Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Yellow Pumpkin’ to stay sidelined for art festival.”
In it, it was explained that talks about restoring the pumpkin haven’t come to fruition yet and that the piece of art won’t return in time for the Setouchi Triennale 2022.
If you read the article in its entirety, it is clear that the plan is still for it to return at some point. It’s just that nothing has been finalized yet (Fix it? Rebuild it from scratch? For how much money? etc.)
Then something funny happened. Several “news” websites devoted to Japan wrote their own articles. Afterward, some news sites devoted to contemporary art did too. And as usual, it was written from secondary sources. People writing those sites are almost never actual journalists, their sources are usually Google and other websites – that’s why those kinds of articles always sort of all look alike. Because they basically copy each other. 🤷♂️
Strangely, their titles were a bit “different” from the original piece of news.
I specifically remember one article – probably the original sinner – that was titled:
“There are currently no plans to replace the Naoshima pumpkin.”
(I don’t need to link to the article and give it publicity) The article cited the Asahi Shimbun as a source, but apparently, the author either hasn’t read the full article or decided to be a bit clickbaity in its formulation.
Of course, it’s not entirely a lie. Indeed, no plan has been decided nor finalized. I guess it’ll be the line of defense from the author of that article. The article just “omits” to add a “yet” at the end of the title. It clearly implies that there are no plans to bring it back. Period. The article itself only briefly mentions that there are talks and that they’re not over at the very end. Oh well. The main information is in the title. Do people who share such articles even read them beforehand?
This ambiguity led to the next step, when the bottom feeders of the web, along with some people on social media, went one step further and simply stated that the Pumpkin will not return! (I saw quite a few of these very sad posts from people on Facebook and Twitter – I can’t blame them. I do blame people who write ambiguous and dishonest web pieces, though.
On the one hand, I find it interesting how: “The Pumpkin will not return in time for the festival but they’re still talking about the modalities of its return, however, nothing has been decided yet.” quickly became “There are no plans for its return.” which in turn became “It won’t return.”
On the other hand, it’s sad that once again so many people just can’t double-check sources and/or simply can’t tell the truth, probably in this case, just to get a few more clicks and a few more shares.
So, without sounding preachy, it’s just another cautionary tale about being careful with what you find online. Sources matter. Journalism is a real job. And, no, writing for a news website doesn’t make you a journalist just because you’re getting paid.
And no, I’m not implying that I am a journalist either. I am not. However, I guess that studying linguistics and literature for too many years in graduate school taught me a few things about research and sources, how to use them, and why they matter.
Why did I spend time writing this instead of writing about the Setouchi Triennale’s new art? Your guess is as good as mine. I guess I had to get it off my chest.
OK, if you’ve read until here, I know why you did it.
You want to know what I know about the return of the Yellow Pumpkin to Naoshima, right?
Well, I do have something for you, then. 🙂
The bad news first: I do not have an “informant” at Benesse Holdings who would leak such information to me. I do have sources here and there, and while I’m not a journalist, I insist on protecting them.
The good news: Come on! Of course, there are some words and rumors running around Naoshima on the issue! Including some that I know to be reliable.
So what I can tell you is that… Optimism is a good personality trait to have. Patience is an even better one. 🙂
Update on May 6th, 2022: Still too cryptic? No problem, I just got more information that I can share with you. Please note that none of this has been officially announced and things could change at any time (I’ll tell you if it does).
So yes, the Yellow Pumpkin should return to its pier on Naoshima as early as this Autumn!
It will very probably be a new one. I always suspected that the one that got damaged was more or less unfixable, at least not in a way that makes the damage invisible. Hopefully, they’ll make it in a stronger material this time (like its red counterpart that is mostly made of concrete, I believe).
Things are not settled yet. First, obviously, Yayoi Kusama is just too old to make a new one herself, so it will probably be her “production team” that will make it. So a lot of things need to be ironed out about this. For example, what can and cannot be outsourced so that authorship is not affected. Also, a price is being negotiated. These are the main reasons why it’s taking longer than some people would like. If you’re familiar with Japanese culture, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. The decision-making process takes a long time, much longer than in the West. But then, once it’s settled, the execution part of a project can be very quick.
I hope all of this eased your doubts and fears if you’re a fan of the Pumpkin.
Oh and if you want to talk about all of this on your site or blog, may I ask you to kindly mention your source (this site) and link back to this page (not like some unsavory site that wrote a similar article today, probably after seeing this post – I know the internet is some sort of Wild Wild West like this, but we can be better than that, we – content creators – should try to be better than that).
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