Home > A closer look > 10 Things to Know about Yayoi Kusama
10 Things to Know about Yayoi Kusama
A closer look 01 Dec 2018

10 Things to Know about Yayoi Kusama

The 93 year old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama was awarded “The most popular artist of the year 2014”. Kusama’s trademark style and passion continues to generate enthusiastic audiences. Her specialty is art which delves into the psychedelic, and upon viewing causing the eye to abandon traditional ideas of space and reality. . .

Yayoi Kusama, In infinity, 2015
In infinity, 2015

Artsper invites you to discover for yourself the 10 most striking elements of the life of Yayoi Kusama.

#1 Works by Yayoi Kusama are often hallucinatory projections

Yayoi Kusama, Victoria Miro, Londres
Yayoi Kusama – Victoria Miro, Londres

As a sculptor, she says that her hallucinations can be traced as far back as the age of 10 : “One day after seeing on the table, tablecloth with the red flower pattern, I brought my gaze to the ceiling. There, everywhere on the surface of the glass like that of the beam, extended forms of red flowers. The whole room, my whole body, the whole universe were full. “These repeated hallucinations help feed the art of polka dots on canvas, objects, and even people. She calls this her ‘infinity net’.

#2 Yayoi Kusama is now a female contemporary artist whose works are most collected in the world

Yayoi Kusama in Yellow Tree room, Courtesy The Whitney Museum and Louis Vuitton
Kusama in Yellow Tree room, Courtesy The Whitney Museum and Louis Vuitton

It can be difficult to be a woman artist in a still-fairly-masculine art world. “She is the only artist whose works are sold on every continent,” says Glenn Scott Wright, co-director of the Victoria Miro Gallery. According to Artnet news, Kusama is ranked 3rd on the list of most expensive living artists.

#3 The world of Yayoi Kusama is obsessed with phallic shapes and symbols

Yayoi Kusama, Aggregation- One Thousand Boats Show
Yayoi Kusama, Aggregation- One Thousand Boats Show

Kusama has been open in interviews, often telling reporters that she has an obsession with sex (and by extension, machismo and man’s position in society). As a child, Kusama experienced an abusive mother and strict yet adulterous father probably awakened in the artist the distrust of sex and intimate relationships. Through her work she exercises these painful subjects.

#4 Yayoi Kusama has illegally participated in the Venice Biennale

Yayoi Kusama, Narcissus Garden, 1977
Yayoi Kusama, Narcissus Garden, 1966

In 1966, with the help of Lucio Fontana, she placed 1,500 mirrored balls before the Italian flag and stood there in her kimono Narcissus Garden, uninvited and without authorization. She then began selling off the spheres, which she called ‘a kinetic carpet’. In 1993 she received an official invitation to the event as Japan’s representative.

#5 Since 1977 Yayoi Kusama has lived in a psychiatric hospital

Yayoi Kusama in Yellow Tree Room, Courtesy The Whitney Museum and Louis Vuitton
Kusama in Yellow Tree Room, Courtesy The Whitney Museum and Louis Vuitton

Mentally exhausted, Kusama went back to Japan in 1973. Since 1977, she has become a permanent resident in the Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill. Her workshop is a short distance from the hospital where she works every day with assistants.

#6 She says art is very “therapeutic”

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Room, 2013
Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Room, 2013

Painting is a form of catharsis for Yayoi Kusama. Whether polka dots or frightening phallus, she created by the thousands to get rid of her feeling of dread.

#7 Through her works, the artist expresses the concept of “self erase”

Yayoi Kusama, Transmigration , 2011
Yayoi Kusama, Transmigration, 2011

Also called “self-obliteration,” Yayoi Kusama feared the disappearance of individuality. She is a complicated woman with many contradicting thoughts and traits. Kusama does not want to be just a normal human being like all the others but acknowledges that “we are more than miserable insects in an incredibly vast universe”.

#8 Yayoi Kusama is an environmentalist artist, fascinated by the infinite

Yayoi Kusama
Courtesy Rebecca Dale Photography

Yayoi Kusama is played in the space. With mirrors, she multiplies. With polka dots, she invades. With lights, she breaks the boundary between the viewer and the environment.

#9 To garner front-page headlines, Yayoi Kusama organizes happenings naked

Yayoi Kusama, A natomic explosions
Yayoi Kusama, A natomic explosions, courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

Yayoi Kusama is fascinated by the media’s ability to transmit ideas and images so quickly. Also, she plays with the image it portrays of naked people in public places, and is careful to always invite the press…

#10 She states “My life is a pea lost among thousands of other peas”

Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama

About Artsper

About Artsper

Founded in 2013, Artsper is an online marketplace for contemporary art. Partnering with 1,800 professional art galleries around the world, it makes discovering and acquiring art accessible to all.

Learn more