ARTIST INDEX: Yayoi Kusama
Article written by Michelle Varinata on April 6, 2017
“I don’t want to cure my mental problems, rather I want to utilise them as a generating force for my art.” - Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama (born on 22 March, 1929 in Matsumoto) is a Japanese painter, sculptor, filmmaker, performer and author whose work has been admired by collectors, critics, fans and fashion designers. Since childhood, Kusama developed an affinity for her signature polkadots. This stemmed from her experiences with “visual and aural hallucinations,” which inspired her to draw what she saw. Although her talent for the arts were able to manifest, it came from the fact that she suffers from a nervous disorder and was neglected by her family, who discouraged her to pursue art. However, she continued her aspirations to become an artist by studying traditional painting in Kyoto.
Knowing that starting out as an artist would be difficult in Japan, Kusama moved out to the United States in 1957. While her career in the States did not grow to a tenfold, she established a reputation for creating artwork in repetitive motifs. An example of her work made during that era included Net Accumulation (1958).
She lived in New York until 1977. When she moved back to Japan, Kusama decided to live in a mental hospital, where she has been creating and exhibiting her artwork for the top museums (The MoMA), galleries (David Zwirner) and fashion houses (Louis Vuitton).
Art Price, an online art market research website, currently states that 5,127 lots are currently being sold. It consists of 2,347 prints, 1,815 paintings, 560 sculptures and 405 drawings. Last year, Kusama’s work had a turnover of at least $54.6 million USD due to selling 532 lots. In 2014, Christie’s dubbed Kusama as the world’s most expensive living female artist since her artwork, White No. 28, sold for $7.4 million at an auction.
Yayoi Kusama, White No. 28 (1960), Oil on Canvas, 147.6 x 111.1 cm, Courtesy of Christie’s New York
Current Works on Sale
Yayoi Kusama, 21.5” Plush Pumpkin (Black and Yellow), (2005), 54.6 cm in diameter, in MSP Modern, Los Angeles
Yayoi Kusama, Coffee Cup (1985), 52.7 × 45.2 cm, 13/100, in Marlborough, London
Yayoi Kusama, Ceramic Shoes (Silver Strap), (2013), 29 × 27 × 27 cm, in Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo, Japan
Selected Past Shows
Yayoi Kusama - Mirrored Years, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 2008
Yayoi Kusama - Hong Kong Blooms in My Mind, Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, China, 2012
Yayoi Kusama, Tate Modern, London, England, Feb 9 - 5 June, 2012
Yayoi Kusama, The Whitney, New York, NY, July 12 - Sept 30, 2012
Current and Upcoming Shows
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Park, Washington D.C., Feb 23 - May 3rd, 2017
Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul, National Arts Center, Tokyo, JP, Feb 22 - May 22, 2017
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, The Broad, Los Angeles, CA, October 2017 - January 2018
Kusama became a U.S. Citizen in 1966.
She moved to Seattle and then, moved to New York City, where her artwork has influenced Andy Warhol.
In 2012, she collaborated with Marc Jacobs, the former creative director of Louis Vuitton, to create a clothing and accessories collection featuring her signature polka dots. The window displays at Louis Vuitton also featured Kusama’s famous tentacle sculptures.
Her Infinity Net painting, No. 2, sold for over $5.1 million at Christie’s in 2008. This was more than quadruple the amount (NOTE: her paintings from that series sold for $200) she made when she was a struggling artist in New York.
Kusama showed up to the Venice Biennale uninvited and was told to stop selling her artwork, which consisted of 1,500 mirrored balls, by the authorities.
Kusama’s “naked happenings”, where nude volunteers were covered in body paint, were actually staged protests in Wall Street.
“It is my wish to leave a message to the whole world from the universe, a message of love and peace to the people of the world.” - Yayoi Kusama