Late last year, we were excited to announce that we had added Naoshima Island to our West Japan tour. Naoshima is considered an ‘art’ island for its many galleries, art events, and has a world-famous museum to explore. It also features one of artist Yayoi Kusama’s famous spotted pumpkins. It’s fitting her art is included on this special excursion, as she’s considered one the most important living artists to hail from Japan. But who is the artist behind these interesting works of art?
Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese pop artist best known for her polka-dot-covered artworks. With a career spanning more than 60 years, she’s left her mark on the art world with her colorful drawing, paintings, public performance, sculptures, film, books, and immersive room experiences.
As a young girl, around the age of 10, she started to have vivid hallucinations of dots and flowers, themes that feature prominently in her work. She began studying traditional nihonga painting at the age of 19, and it was during this time that she began to experiments with covering sheets of paper, walls, and objects with the many dots she had started seeing as a young girl. She called these fields of dots “infinity nets” and are the unifying theme and trademark of her work.
Kusama arrived in the United States in 1957 to join in on the exciting things taking place in the New York City art world. During this time she took part in body painting festivals, fashion shows, anti-war demonstrations, and other public “happenings” popular at the time. Because of the conceptual quality of much of her work, she quickly became a leader in avant-garde movement– and, sadly, copied by many of her contemporaries. In addition to paintings and public performance, she was also a writer of many books and a filmmaker. Not only was her work very unique, but her entire personal image was also of note. She was (and still is) known for her shocking red bob wigs and colorful personal style.
Her most famous works, called “Infinity Rooms,” are what Kusama is most known for. These mirror-lined rooms are filled with different objects-twinkling lights, hundreds of stuffed fabric shapes, etc.- that seems to expand into infinity. When a viewer steps inside, they have a sense of being lost in space. She started creating these in 1963 and is still doing so to this day. She also is well-known for open-air sculptures of pumpkins, covered in her signature dots, which she considers to be a self-portraits and representations of her alter ego.
Now in her 90s, Kusuma continues to be a prolific artist. Although she has lived, voluntarily, in a mental health facility since 1977, she remains a relevant figure in the art and fashion worlds. In 2011, she partnered with Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton collaborating on a line of accessories which sold at pop up shops around the world. The same year, she partnered with Lancome on a set of lipsticks. These collaborations have introduced Kusama to a new generation of fans, who consistently search out her work.
Read more about our West Japan + Naoshima Island tour here.