Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist who is sometimes called 'the princess of polka dots'. Although she makes lots of different types of art – paintings, sculptures, performances and installations – they have one thing in common, DOTS!
'Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos. Polka dots are a way to infinity. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment'.
Yayoi was born in Japan in 1929. She loved drawing and painting and although her parents didn't want her to be an artist, she was determined. When her mum tore up her drawings, she made more. When she could not afford to buy art materials, she used mud and old sacks to make art.
Eventually Yayoi Kusama persuaded her parents to let her go to art school and study painting. In the late 1950s she moved to New York as lots of the most exciting art seemed to be happening there. Yayoi Kusama dazzles audiences worldwide with her immersive "Infinity Mirror Rooms" and an aesthetic that embraces light, polka dots, and pumpkins.
The avant-garde artist first rose to prominence in 1960s New York, where she staged provocative Happenings and exhibited hallucinatory paintings of loops and dots that she called "Infinity Nets." Kusama also influenced Andy Warhol and augured the rise of feminist and Pop art. She has been the subject of major exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, Centre Pompidou, Tate Modern, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. In 1993, Kusama represented Japan at the Venice Biennale.
Today, her work regularly sells for seven figures on the secondary market. Throughout her disparate practice, Kusama has continued to explore her own obsessive-compulsive disorder, sexuality, freedom, and perception. In 1977, Kusama voluntarily checked herself into a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo, where she continues to live today.
Yayoi Kusama and Louis Vuitton collaboration
Yayoi Kusama had the first of many exhibitions there in 1959. She met and inspired important artists including Donald Judd, Andy Warhol and Joseph Cornell, and her art was a part of exciting art developments such as pop art and minimalism. She was also one of the first artists to experiment with performance and action art.
As well as being an art pioneer, Yayoi Kusama put her creativity into other things including music, design, writing and fashion.
Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013
In the mid-1960s, she established herself in New York as an important avant-garde artist by staging groundbreaking and influential happenings, events, and exhibitions. Her work gained renewed widespread recognition in the late 1980s following a number of international solo exhibitions, including shows at the Center for International Contemporary Arts, New York, and the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, both of which took place in 1989.
She represented Japan in 1993 at the 45th Venice Biennale, to much critical acclaim. In 1998, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, co-organized Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama, 1958–1968, which toured to the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1998-1999), and Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (1999).
More recently, in 2011 to 2012, her work was the subject of a large-scale retrospective that traveled to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
From 2012 through 2015, three major museum solo presentations of the artist's work simultaneously traveled to major museums throughout Japan, Asia, and Central and South America. In 2015, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark, organized a comprehensive overview of Kusama's practice that traveled to Henie-Onstad Kunstsenter, Høvikodden, Norway; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and Helsinki Art Museum.
Installation view of Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli's Field, 1965
In 2017-2019, a major survey of the artist's work, Infinity Mirrors, was presented at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Seattle Art Museum; The Broad, Los Angeles; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia. Yayoi Kusama: Life Is the Heart ofthe Rainbow, which marked the first large-scale exhibition of Kusama's work presented in Southeast Asia, opened at the National Gallery of Singapore in 2017 and traveled to the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara, Jakarta.
In 2019, All About Love Speaks Forever, an exhibition "tailor-made" specifically for the Fosun Foundation, Shanghai included more than 40 works by the artist.
In 2023, a commissioned mosaic by Kusama, A Message of Love, Directly from My Heart unto the Universe (2022) was unveiled at the new Madison Concourse at Grand Central Station, New York and will remain on permanent view.
Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, 2009
Kusama has been represented by David Zwirner since 2013. The gallery's inaugural exhibition in 2013 with the artist, titled I Who Have Arrived in Heaven, spanned all three spaces at West 19th Street in New York. Her second gallery solo show, Give Me Love, was held at David Zwirner, New York, in 2015.
Subsequent solo shows of the artist's work at David Zwirner, New York include Festival of Life, concurrently presented with Infinity Nets, in 2017; and EVERY DAY I PRAY FOR LOVE in 2019. In 2021, David Zwirner, Victoria Miro, and Ota Fine Arts jointly presented I WANT YOUR TEARS TO FLOW WITH THE WORDS I WROTE in London, Tokyo, and New York.
In May of 2023, David Zwirner, New York presents the artist's sixth exhibition with the gallery.
Yayoi Kusama Museum, a museum dedicated to the artist's work, opened October 1, 2017, in Tokyo with the inaugural exhibition Creation is a Solitary Pursuit, Love is WhatBrings You Closer to Art. EVERY DAY I PRAY FOR LOVE, the museum's tenth exhibition devoted to her work, is currently on view.
For the second time, Louis Vuitton has invited Yayoi Kusama to a new creative encounter, reawakening, evolving, and expanding on the pioneering initial exchange. Launched in January 2023, ten years after the first collaboration, the new Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama Collection brings the artist's symbolic objects and hypnotic motifs to the Maison's creations. Celebrating art, audacity, and craftsmanship, Kusama's Painted Dots, Metal Dots, Infinity Dots, and Psychedelic Flower enliven the universe of Louis Vuitton.
Kusama shared the following message upon her visit to the Louis Vuitton pop-up stores in Omotesandō and Harajuku:
"I want you to love me like you loved me Together with me, please be well and work hard to deliver the message of love, world peace to all over the world I wish everyone happiness."
The most famous artworks of Yayoi Kusama
No. F, 1959
"No. F" is an artwork created by Yayoi Kusama in 1959, featuring a large canvas covered in a pattern of white net-like loops and arcs on a black background. The loops and arcs create a sense of depth and movement, and give the impression of a three-dimensional space. The painting is notable for its use of repetition and symmetry, as well as its exploration of themes related to the relationship between the individual and the collective.
Kusama's use of repeated patterns and shapes in "No. F" is meant to create a sense of infinity and repetition, and to challenge the viewer's perception of space and reality. The loops and arcs in the painting are a signature element of Kusama's style, and have been a consistent theme throughout her career. The painting challenges traditional notions of individuality and identity, and invites the viewer to contemplate the relationship between the individual and the collective.
"No. F" has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world, and has become one of Kusama's most famous works. It has been praised for its ability to create a sense of awe and wonder in viewers, and for its exploration of complex themes related to identity and society. Overall, "No. F" is a testament to Kusama's unique artistic vision and her ability to use art as a means of exploring challenging and complex ideas.
No. F, 1959
Accumulation No. 1, 1962
"Accumulation No. 1" is an artwork created by Yayoi Kusama in 1962, featuring a small armchair covered in phallic-shaped soft sculptures. The soft sculptures are made of sewn and stuffed fabric and are arranged in a dense pattern covering the entire surface of the chair. The work is notable for its use of repetition and accumulation, as well as its exploration of themes related to sexuality and gender.
Kusama's use of soft sculptures in "Accumulation No. 1" is a signature element of her artistic style, and has been a consistent theme throughout her career. The phallic shapes of the soft sculptures are meant to evoke a sense of sexuality and desire, while their accumulation on the surface of the chair creates a sense of tension and excess. The work challenges traditional gender norms and conventions, and has been praised for its ability to subvert and challenge traditional notions of sexuality and identity.
"Accumulation No. 1" has been exhibited in a variety of different contexts, including galleries, museums, and private collections. It has become one of Kusama's most famous works, and is often cited as an example of her unique artistic vision and her ability to create works that are both visually stunning and intellectually stimulating. Overall, "Accumulation No. 1" is a testament to Kusama's ability to use art as a means of exploring complex and challenging themes related to identity, gender, and sexuality.
Accumulation No. 1, 1962
Flowers that bloom at midnight is a series of large scale sculptures, each with its distinct boisterous color scheme. Flowers have, for a long time being an essential part of Kusama's oeuvre. She uses their metaphorical properties to reflect many of her conceptual preoccupations, along with her disregard for dichotomies.
Kusama's flowers symbolize life and death, masculinity and femininity, and celebration and mourning. Their complex form – fragile, organic, finding uniqueness through repetition – finds resonance throughout her work.
Since she was a kid, Kusama has been around flowers. As a means of instinctively working through her early experiences, flowers get featured in plenty of her first drawings and paintings. In one of her earliest photographs, she could be seen almost obscured by large chrysanthemums.
"Pumpkin" is an artwork created by Yayoi Kusama in 1990, featuring a large, brightly colored pumpkin sculpture made out of fiberglass. The pumpkin stands at over six feet tall and is covered in a vivid yellow and black pattern of dots. The sculpture has been exhibited in a variety of different settings, both indoors and outdoors, and has become one of Kusama's most famous works.
The pumpkin is a recurring motif in Kusama's art, and she has said that it represents a sense of warmth, familiarity, and security for her. In Japanese culture, the pumpkin is also considered to be a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Kusama's use of dots in the pattern of the pumpkin is another signature element of her style, and serves to create a sense of depth and movement in the sculpture.
Repetitive Vision, 1996
"Repetitive Vision" is an artwork created by Yayoi Kusama in 1996, featuring a series of mirrors arranged in a square grid pattern on the walls and floor of a room. The mirrors reflect each other and the space around them, creating a dizzying and disorienting effect for the viewer. The installation is meant to create a sense of infinity and repetition, and to challenge the viewer's perception of space and reality.
Kusama's use of mirrors and repetition is a signature element of her artistic style, and has been a consistent theme throughout her career. In "Repetitive Vision," she uses these elements to create an immersive and transformative experience for the viewer. The installation is meant to evoke a sense of awe and wonder, and to create a space for contemplation and reflection.
"Repetitive Vision" has been exhibited in a variety of different contexts, including galleries and museums around the world. It has become one of Kusama's most famous works, and is often cited as an example of her unique artistic vision and her ability to create works that are both visually stunning and emotionally powerful. Overall, "Repetitive Vision" is a testament to Kusama's ability to use art to challenge and transform the viewer's perception of the world around them.
Repetitive Vision, 1996
Dots Obsession, 2003
"Dots Obsession" is an art installation created by Yayoi Kusama in 2003. The installation features a large room covered in red polka dots, with a variety of red spheres of different sizes suspended from the ceiling. The floor of the room is also covered in red polka dots, and visitors are invited to walk through the space and interact with the spheres. Kusama has described the installation as a representation of her lifelong obsession with dots and their infinite possibilities.
The installation has been exhibited in a number of different contexts, including galleries, museums, and outdoor public spaces. It has become one of Kusama's most famous works, and is often cited as an example of her unique aesthetic style and playful approach to art. In addition to its visual impact, "Dots Obsession" is also notable for its interactive nature, which allows visitors to become part of the artwork itself.
Ascension of Polka Dots, 2006
"Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees" is a site-specific installation created by Yayoi Kusama in 2006. The installation features a series of trees in a park in Tokyo, Japan, which are covered in brightly colored polka dots. The dots range in size and color, creating a vibrant and playful effect in the natural environment. The installation was created as part of the artist's ongoing effort to blur the lines between art and everyday life.
Kusama has long been fascinated with polka dots, and they have become a signature element of her artistic style. In "Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees," Kusama uses the dots to transform the trees into a surreal and whimsical landscape. By creating this installation in a public park, Kusama invites viewers to engage with her art in a more intimate and personal way, blurring the boundaries between art and nature.
The installation has been exhibited in a variety of different settings around the world, including museums, galleries, and public spaces. It has become one of Kusama's most famous works, and has been praised for its ability to bring joy and playfulness into the world. Overall, "Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees" is a testament to Kusama's unique artistic vision and her ability to create works that are both visually striking and emotionally resonant.
Ascension of Polkadots on the trees, 2016 Installation View at Moderna Museet