Rosewood London Hotel Introduces the Yayoi Kusama Art Afternoon Tea

Images by Patricia Niven

The unbridled fervor for everything Yayoi Kusama these last several years seems to have netted the contemporary art world its own, obviously less harrowing version of Beatlemania – except that this time, most encouragingly, the “pop”ulace is going mad for the work of a 92-year-old Japanese woman, rather than four dreamy young lads from Liverpool. To wit, in 2020 there was a major exhibition at DC’s Hirshhorn Museum, followed by her inclusion in the fittingly titled STARS: Six Contemporary Artists from Japan to the World, at Tokyo’s Mori Museum. Currently, an arguably epochal show at the New York Botanical Garden finds her once again dominating the cultural column inches.

Yet another exhibition, delayed from last year, has just opened at London’s Tate Modern; and as happens these days, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms sold out instantly through late October – as if it were Adele’s next UK concert tour. So for those rescheduling COVID-cancelled trips to Blighty’s capital in the coming months, well…you’re pretty much out of luck. But decisively coming to the rescue, the Rosewood London hotel has undertaken to pay Ms. Kusama a fitting epicurean encomium, which can be indulged by anyone with 65 GBP burning a hole in their pocket.

Indeed, the pithily named Kusama Art Afternoon Tea (being offered in the posh Holborn property’s Tony Chi designed Mirror Room) is Executive Pastry Chef Mark Perkins’ interpretation of Kusama’s singular aesthetic / visceral representation of the ever fragile psyche of humanity. To be sure, her works have quite often been about processing trauma and responding by putting something hopeful out into the world – which is surely why she has been able to make such a potent connection with a global citizenry living through such traumatic times as these.

Now arguably it might seem flippant to attempt to transmute those ideas into mere edibles. But Perkins carries it all out with an admirable sensitivity and sincerity, rather than making it just another licensed, exhibition sideshow scheme.

“As a pastry chef,” he explains, “I’m always curious, and try to draw inspiration from things that surround me.”

And so the finished creations have whimsical monikers like All My Love For Tulips, Flowers That Bloom at Midnight, and Dots Obsession Soul of Pumpkin, the latter a reference to the prodigious orange fruit that has inspired so much of her prolific oeuvre. The remainder of the tea menu expectedly eschews overarching Englishness for a dominant Japanese influence, with sandwiches – crispy rice cracker, yuzu avocado and keta caviar; cucumber, cream cheese, shichimi; and smoked salmon with wasabi cream – tilting decidedly to the East.

There are a number of specialty teas on offer, but most intriguing surely would certainly be the Fuji Yama tea, grown on the slopes of the sacred mountain of the same name, with an aroma of freshly picked Nashi pear. For full effect, one can order the Yayoi Kusama Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2012, in a bottle designed by the artist herself.

Most charmingly, there is also a children’s version of the Art Tea service on offer as well – perhaps because eight decades of making art can still be traced back to Ms. Kusama’s deeply affective childhood experiences. And without that childlike wonder, surely none of this would have even been possible.

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