Yayoi Kusama (草間 彌生 or 弥生 Kusama Yayoi, born March 22, 1929 in Matsumoto, Nagano) is a Japanese artist and writer. Throughout her career she has worked in a wide variety of media, including painting, collage, sculpture, performance art and environmental installations, most of which exhibit her thematic interest in psychedelic colors, repetition and pattern. A precursor of the pop art, minimalist and feminist art movements, Kusama influenced contemporaries such as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. Although largely forgotten after departing the New York art scene in the early 1970s, Kusama is now acknowledged as one of the most important living artists to come out of Japan, and an important voice of the avant-garde.
Kusama’s work is based in conceptual art and shows some attributes of feminism, minimalism, surrealism, Art Brut, pop art, and abstract expressionism, and is infused with autobiographical, psychological, and sexual content. Kusama is also a published novelist and poet, and has created notable work in film and fashion design. Major retrospectives of her work have been held at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and Tate Modern, whilst in 2008 Christies New York sold a work by her for $5.1 million, a record for a living female artist.
Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Tate Modern in London
The artist who looks like the love child of Anna Sui and Betsey Johnson, sports her Anna Wintour bob (in fiery orange-y red) perfectly. Though no longer living in New York, she continues to foster her otherworldly eccentrics in unique ways. In interviews she has often described hallucinations and seizure like experiences as her artistic inspiration. Her earliest example of her use of dots can be found on a drawing from when she was 10 years old.
Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist who commutes to her studio every morning from her home, which just so happens to be a mental institution. She was an artist at large in the 1950’s and 1960’s, partying with Andy Warhol, and counted Georgia O’Keeffe amongst her friends. She put on “Nude Parties” in the middle of Manhattan, in which she would paint thousands of tiny circles on naked models. She once held an impromptu sale of her art outside of the MoMA. While some commentators might call the 84 year old polka dot obsessed, she would correct you. “Infinity” She would say. For Kusama the multiplicity of circles represents a never ending continuum.
For instance Yayoi Kusama and the mega brand Louis Vuitton have teamed up together to create a limited edition of her unique designs that will be featured on all LV accessories, shoes and clothing. Injecting her bold and psychedelic colour into creative director Marc Jacobs’ feminine silhouettes, the Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama collection is a colourful and pattern-heavy affair. Across the entire collection, jewellery, bags, shoes and clothing are adorned with the vibrancy and energy of Yayoi’s signature artistry.
George Clooney x Yayoi Kusama for W Magazine December 2013
An unexpected surprise is the December issue of “W Magazine” with a. George Clooney cover. The sexy Hollywood icon fills several pages with an interview about his latest film “The monuments men,” of which he and ‘director and actor along with a stellar cast – here a preview of the film and trailer – reigns undisturbed on the cover in all its charm. Dark suit, looked appealing, posture Kasanova and a shower of white polka dots by Yayoi Kusama.
When Kusama first left her native Japan, she sought New York for its famed embracing of the modern art movement. Once again residing in Japan, she is now the country’s most famous contemporary artist.
Lately at a press conference held in David Zwirner’s New York City galleries, Kusama spoke to the audience frankly and sweetly through a translator.
“It’s a struggle everyday. Now I am in my wheelchair because I damaged my legs and I am going to treatments every day and all the doctors tell me not to do this, that I am doing too much art, never resting, it’s always ‘art, art, art:’ painting, films, sculpture, fashion.”
And she’s right. The woman is 84 and still making works that span huge walls. Her mind is as enviably unpredictable and eccentric as it was decades ago when she wrote an open letter to Richard Nixon offering to fuck him if he ended the Vietnam War. Art is not merely a channel or an escape; it is the force keeping her grounded in this world.
Yayoi Kusama I Who Have Arrived In Heaven. November – December 2013 at David Zwirner’s New York City galleries
Throughout her life, Kusama has been deeply troubled, seeking professional help since she was young. She has attempted suicide several times in New York, she tells the room of art reporters and admirers. Since 1975, she has voluntarily resided in a mental institution in Tokyo, creating volumes of art within its walls.
“Everyday I am working and creating art: early in the morning until very late at night, sometimes ’til 3 am. I am just fighting for my life,” she says.
Kusama’s work often focuses on how we are all facing terrible battles on this earth, and we should strive to obliterate ourselves to become one with the universe or, sometimes, become one with polka dots.
Current exhibition: Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Obsession
Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro
October 12, 2013 – January 20, 2014