Yayoi Kusama

Biography of Yayoi Kusama

Although almost 90 years of age, Yayoi Kusama remains one of the world’s most prominent contemporary artists. Throughout her long career she has worked with a wide variety of media, from painting to collage, to sculpture, to performance and installation, and has served as an influence to important contemporaries such as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. Her eccentric abstraction and feminist stance has made her one of the most important voices of the avant-garde.

 

Born in 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan, Kusama began creating art from an early age. She studied Nihonga painting in Kyoto but soon became frustrated with this style of painting that strictly adhered to Japanese artistic conventions. She was quick to then move to New York where she swiftly established herself as a leader in avant-garde circles. She began experimenting with Abstract Expressionism, and began covering walls and surfaces with the polka dots that would become a trademark in her work. She claimed these polka dots (or ‘infinity nets’ as she calls them) were inspired by hallucinations she had as a child. Throughout the 60s she also began working on her Infinity Rooms, which she continues to work on today; a series of complex installations using mirrors, protrusions and colored balls that create illusions of never ending space and bizarre, fantastical environments for viewers to get immersed in.

 

The artist Yayoi Kusama returned to Japan in 1973, and checked herself into a mental institution where she continues to live today—her studio being only a short distance away from the hospital. Kusama has had major retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1998, the Whitney Museum, New York in 2012 as well as the Tate Modern, London in 2012. In 2008, at Christie’s New York, a Kusama work was sold for $5.1 million, at the time a record for a living female artist.

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