5 things you didn’t know about Yayoi Kusama
Born in Japan, Yayoi Kusama studied painting in Kyoto before moving to New York in 1957. Her work spans painting, drawing, sculpture and performance, as well as literature and notable fashion collaborations. In celebration of her latest exhibition the Victoria Miro in London, we’ve rounded up five facts you probably didn’t know about this world famous artist.
1. Kusama was once famous for organising ‘naked happenings’.
Yayoi Kusama is anti-war and communicated her political conscience through her artwork. Some of her earliest surviving paintings relate to the horrors of war: Accumulation of the Corpses (Prisoner Surrounded by the Curtain of Depersonalization) and Earth of Accumulation (1950) both illustrate dark war landscapes. In the 1960s during the Vietnam War, Kusama came into the public eye after organising a series of naked happenings in New York. These took place opposite the New York Stock Exchange and participants were painted with brightly coloured polka dots. Many argued this was Yayoi’s way of counteracting violence with art and activism.
2. A film about Kusama’s life has just been released.
Her latest exhibition coincides with the UK release of a film about the artist’s extraordinary life and rise to fame, Kusama: Infinity. The documentary tells her story through interviews with art historians and photographs, as well as narration by Kusama herself.
3. She is one of the most famous artists on Instagram.
Thanks to the selfie culture of social media, Yayoi Kusama is known as one of Instagram’s favourite artists. Although each visitor is given only a small amount of time in each room, a quick search on Instagram reveals that hundreds of thousands of people post their Infinity Mirror experience worldwide (see #YayoiKusama or #InfiniteKusama).
4. She has collaborated with some major fashion designers.
At the same time as her exhibition at the Tate in 2012, Kusama launched a fashion range with Louis Vuitton. The collection saw her signature bold spots printed across an array of products ranging from bags to jewellery.
5. Georgia O’Keefe was the a huge inspiration and support to Kusama.
When Kusama was young she was greatly inspired by Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings. She dreamed of moving to America and wrote to O’keefe seeking advice, who responded with a kind letter. Kusama often says this was what gave her the courage to escape to New York and begin her career as an artist. Later, O’Keeffe invited Kusama to stay at her New Mexico ranch – she was concerned that New York was a city was too tough to live in for Kusama.