Japan’s ‘polka dot queen’ Kusama gets first museum

"Pumpkins Screaing About Love Beyond Infinity" by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is displayed in her museum

Tokyo (AFP) – The first museum devoted to Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama opened its doors Wednesday, featuring trademark colourful paintings and spotted pumpkin statues from the so-called “polka dot queen”.

The 88-year-old, named the world’s most popular artist in 2014 by the Art Newspaper, said she had accomplished her “profound lifelong hope of having everyone be able to see my artwork”.

The first exhibition at the museum, housed in a stark white building in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, features 45 works created between 2004 and 2017, including a series entitled “My Eternal Soul”.

True to form, it includes a sparkly pumpkin statue, large colourful paintings with meticulously replicated drawings of dots and eyes, and red polka dots on mirrors inside a toilet.

Kusama said in a statement she wanted visitors to “see and feel my philosophy towards life… all my love devoted to all beloved humans through a sincere, lifelong endeavour towards art.”

Born in 1929 in central Japan’s Nagano prefecture, Kusama, who suffered from psychological trauma due to feuding between her parents. She was already drawing dots and nets as a child, based on her hallucinatory experiences.

She moved to the United States aged 28 and spent 16 years in New York at the height of the sexual liberation movement.

By the time Kusama returned to Japan in 1973, she was burned out and voluntarily checked into a psychiatric ward where she has lived ever since. 

It was not until the 1990s that Kusama was rediscovered. Her polka dots and pumpkins were a perfect fit for a highly commercialised art market, with collectors drawn to her instantly recognisable style. 

The exhibition opens to the public on October 1.


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