A genuinely grand retrospective of works by the famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has gone on view at Tate Modern in London; the show, mounted in association with Tate Modern, was only recently running at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid, Centre Pompidou in Paris and is scheduled to travel on to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The exhibition comprises 150 works by Kusama, exhaustively representing her artistic activities between 1949 and 2011. Yayoi Kusama's career started at the age of 23 in Japan where her first solo exhibitions were held, however it was in the late 1950s, when she found herself in New York, the epicentre of contemporary art of the time, that the artist won international acclaim. The active artistic career of Yayoi Kusama spans over six decades and is still influencing the younger generations of visual artists. The exhibition reveals the quintessence of Yayoi Kusama's art and the significance of her work in the context of the late 20th-century art scene while bearing witness to her uncompromising nature. The show is comprised of two parts, the first one covering Kusama's life and work in New York and the second one explores the years following her return to Japan in 1973. The viewers, however, might be particularly intrigued by the smaller opening section of the show featuring Yayoi Kusama's watercolours dating from her early years prior to moving to the United States; these pieces are exhibited for the first time in Europe.Born in 1928 in Matsumoto, Yayoi Kusama came to New York in 1958, becoming one of the most vivid and extravagant figures on the city's art scene of the time. Captured in photographs, her Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge happenings which saw Kusama paint naked human bodies with black polka dots are now considered as some of the most iconic moments in the art life of her day. Polka dots, covering the planes of her paintings and walls, ceilings, floors and objects of her installations, became the hallmark of Kusama's art. According to the artist, her own life is but a dot which is lost among thousands of others.
In 1973, suffering from health problems, Yayoi Kusama returned to Japan where she has been a voluntary in-patient of a mental hospital since 1975. Her hospital room, 12 square metres in size, features no furniture apart from a bed. Every morning after breakfast the artist leaves the hospital to work at her nearby studio. According to Kusama, if it was not for her art, she would have committed suicide long ago. Today Kusama's works (paintings, environmental installations, collages, sculptures and performances) are part of the gold standard of contemporary art. Her art has always been based on conceptualism, rich in references to Minimalism, Surrealism, feminism, Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism. Kusama's shows are always a visually shocking and exciting experience for art lovers. For the most part, she is said to find inspiration in her hallucinations which she has been experiencing since childhood. According to Yayoi Kusama, art is a manifestation of her illness - in a way, it is a translation of her mental condition.
London SE 1 9TG
Photo: Yayoi Kusama
The Passing Winter 2005 (detail)
© Tate. Presented by the Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee 2008. Photo: Tate Photography
Keywords: London, exhibition