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Yayoi Kusama

Born in: 1929 Japan

Famous artist

Yayoi Kusama


Yayoi Kusama's monumental and immersive installations are worldwide famous. They have inspired artists such as Carolee Schneemann, Yoko Ono and Damien Hirst and have been exhibited by the most important contemporary art institutions: the MoMA in New York, the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Venice Biennale.

Born in 1929 in Nagano, Japan, Yayoi Kusama began drawing when she was a child. She started having hallucinations very early. Once after looking at a flowered tablecloth she looked up to the ceiling, and that is when she realized that she kept seeing the patterns. Her hallucinations remained ever present in her work, particularly the famous polka dots. She studied at the Kyoto School of Arts and Crafts where she trained in traditional Japanese painting (nihonga).

It was rare at the time to see a woman evolve as an artist in the patriarchal Japanese society. Her parents were against her working as an artist, especially her mother, but this only strengthened her desire to make art.

She also detached herself from the Japanese education, which was too traditional, and granted herself more freedom by taking Western models as inspiration. At the age of 27, she moved to Seattle and then to New York, where she was forced to live with little money.

She began to exhibit her work with avant-garde artists: Yves Klein, Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. She collaborated with her friend Donald Judd many times, presenting a more and more provocative art.

In the 1960s, she was completely involved in the avant-garde scene with her psychedelic art (at the forefront of the scene close to the hippie movement) and close to Pop Art.

She produced numerous happenings (spontaneous performances that require public participation) and performances. She is also known for her "naked demonstrations" against the Vietnam War, for which she was often arrested by the police. The installations she presented at Gertrude Stein gallery in 1964 were a great success.

In 1966, although not officially invited, she participated at the Venice Biennale with her work "Narcissus Garden", an installation of 1500 plastic silver globes. She was invited again at the Venice Biennale in 1993, this time officially.

She returned to Japan in 1973, in poor health; in 1977 she checked herself into a Psychiatric Hospital close to her studio.

Her art allows her above all to channel her hallucinations, but also her phobias: the fear of sex for example, which came from her father's adulterous escapades that she witnessed when she was a child. Her art is provocative and is informed by her feminist and anti-machist convictions that she developed growing up in Japan. Yayoi Kusama is still very active in the art world today; art gives meaning to her life. The Yayoi Kusama museum opened in in 2017 in Tokyo.

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Yayoi Kusama, La bleue (Pumpkin BB-C), Print

Yayoi Kusama

La bleue (Pumpkin BB-C), 2004
9.4 x 11.2 inch

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