Yayoi Kusama’s (insanely magical) universe

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Yayoi Kusama. Photo: Government of Japan/ Wikimedia Commons

The countdown has begun for the much-anticipated Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto, which March 3 and runs until May 27.

Since December, tens of thousands have queued online hoping to score the 40,000 available public tickets to the show in Toronto, the only Canadian stop. The exhibition also drew record-breaking crowds in the three other North American stops: Los Angeles, Washington and Seattle.

One of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors. Photo: Helsinki Art Museum, The Broad

Kusama, at 88, “has never been bigger, according to the CBC. “No female artist alive earns more at auction.Her signature dots have appeared on Louis Vuitton bags — she’s even styled George Clooney — and the show arriving at the Art Gallery of Ontario this spring is a massive retrospective of more than a half century of work.”

Yayoi Kusama, 2010. David Zwirner Gallery. Photo: @myfriendyayoi/Instagram

Before you fill your Instagram and Facebook feeds with Kusama exhibit photos just for bragging rights, here are some things you need to know about the iconic artist:

  • Yayoi Kusama was born on March 22, 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan.
  • She began to paint using polka dots and nets as motifs at age 10.

    Yayoi Kusama as a child, clutching dahlias, 1939 Photo: @myfriendyayoi/Instagram

  • Her art — paintings, sculptures, installations and performances — have one thing in common, dots, which has earned her the moniker “princess of polka dots.”
  • At a young age, she had been plagued with hallucinations and obsessional neurosis — which often featured a field of dots— and these largely influenced her work, with its frenzied, rhythmic, fantastic, out-of-this-world quality.

Oversized plastic tulips in a white room filled with red polka dots. Taken Feb. 12,, 2012 at the Osaka National Museum of International Art. Photo: Samuel Mark Thompson/Wikimedia Commons

  • She had little formal training, studying art for only one year, 1948-1949, at the Kyoto City Specialist School of Arts.
  • While in New York City, from 1957 to 1973, she moved in avant-garde circles with Andy Warhol, Donald Judd, Claese Oldenburg, and Allan Kaprow, during which she honed her signature dot and net motifs.

    Self-obliteration by dots. Yayoi Kusama. 1968. Photo: @myfriendyayoi/Instagram

  • She first used mirrors as a multi-reflective device in Infinity Mirror Room: Phalli’s Field in 1965. These consisted of “thousands of tiny marks obsessively repeated across large canvases without regard for the edges of the canvas, as if they continued into infinity,” according to brittanica.com “Such works explored the physical and psychological boundaries of painting, with the seemingly endless repetition of the marks creating an almost hypnotic sensation for both the viewer and the artist.”
  • In  the 1960s, she explored anti-war and anti-establishment themes, and staged body painting festivals and fashion shows.
  • In 1968, “Kusama’s Self-Obliteration”a film she produced and starred in won a prize at the Fourth International Experimental Film Competition in Belgium and the Second Maryland Film Festival and the second prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival.
  • In 1973, she returned to Japan, where she continued to produce and show her work. She also began writing novels and in 1983, The Hustlers Grotto of Christopher Street, won the Tenth Literary Award for New Writers from the monthly magazine Yasei Jidai,
  • While in Japan, she lived in a mental hospital “by her own choice,” beginning in 1977.
  • At age 60, Kusama returned to the international scene with shows in New York City and Oxford, England.


Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkin, Hong Kong. Photo: @jalandis44 Instagram

  • “In 1993 she represented Japan at the Venice Biennale with work that included Mirror Room (Pumpkin), an installation in which she filled a mirrored room with pumpkin sculptures covered in her signature dots,” according to britannica.com.”Between 1998 and 1999 a major retrospective of her works was shown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
  • In 2006 she received the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale prize for painting.Her work was the subject of a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in 2012, and a traveling exhibition attracted record crowds at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., in 2017.”

    Yayoi Kusama exhibit, Helsinki Art Museum, October 2016. Photo: Helsinki Art Museum/Wikimedia Commons

    Yayoi Kusama at her museum in Tokyo. Photo: @myfriendyayoi/Instagram

    In 2017, Kusama opened the Yayoi Kusama Museum in Tokyo, aimed at spreading and promoting her work, “near her studio and the psychiatric hospital where she lives.”








Photo: @nazem_088/Instagram














Yayoi Kusama website
Tate Museum

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