Named as the world’s most popular artist in 2015, Yayoi Kusama is famous for her multidimensional and immersive works, encompassing paintings, sculptures and installations, from her signature polka dots to...
Named as the world’s most popular artist in 2015, Yayoi Kusama is famous for her multidimensional and immersive works, encompassing paintings, sculptures and installations, from her signature polka dots to her mirror-and-light Infinity rooms. To categorise Kusama would be impossible, as she oscillates across mediums and styles, from Pop Art to Minimalism, without ever taking a singular path. However, the idea that ties her work together is that of the hallucinatory and immersive experience, whether this is articulated through her painting, sculpture or of course her dazzling installations. Her ultimate aim with her art was to achieve a state of ‘obliteration’.
The present work, poetically entitled Passage of the Wind, is an apt example of Kusama’s immersive style, but represented in painting form. The concentrated, almost illusionary shapes and lines all intertwine to produce a hallucinatory experience which echoes the ceaseless, complex and obsessive imagery experienced by Kusama, as expressed in her Infinity and polka dot works. The painting also conveys Kusama’s fascination with the natural world during the time when she returned to Japan, following her institutionalisation in 1977. Her 1980s works are often characterised by poetic and natural themes, like flowers, birds, the elements and animals. This new thematic interest is also symbolic of her return to the Japanese environment and culture in which she grew up, surrounded by nature and flowers. Passage of the wind portrays her enthrallment with complex natural organisms through its microscopic precision, recalling her early teenage sketchbooks of flowers, also characterised by their obsessive detail. Moreover, the work fuses the precision and interest in the natural world of traditional Japanese painting and woodcuts with the boldness and immediacy of Post-War Western art.
In 1993, following her retreat from the public, Kusama returned to the art world with her Japanese Pavillion at the Venice Biennale, where she installed her Mirror Room (Pumpkin), a mirrored room filled with her signature dotted pumpkin sculptures. Kusama has continued to develop an expansive and prolific practice, cultivating her specific visual lexicon that is at once whimsical, erotic and participatory. In the last decade, various public museum shows, gallery representation and commercial collaborations have catapulted Kusama into celebrity fame. In 2012, the Tate held a major career-spanning retrospective of her work which travelled to the Reina Sofia in Madrid, as well as Centre Pompidou in Paris. In the past five years, more than 5 million museum visitors have queued for a brief glimpse of her work. The Victoria Miro gallery has held a number of sold-out exhibitions devoted to her Infinity-mirror rooms. She has had large-scale solo shows of her work in Mexico City, Rio, Seoul, Taiwan and Chile, as well as major touring exhibitions in the US and Europe. Last year, she opened her own five-storey gallery in Tokyo. The Broad museum in Los Angeles recently sold 90,000 $25 tickets in an afternoon to its Kusama exhibition, causing the LA Times to ask if the artist was now “Hotter than Hamilton?”. This same show also travelled to the Hirschhorn museum and Seattle Art Museum.
From 1998 to 1999, a major retrospective of Kusama’s works which opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art travelled to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Walker Art Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. She has also been exhibited at Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Louisiana Art Centre in Denmark, the Toyo National Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Judd Foundation in NY and Dasha Zhuukova’s Garage centre for contemporary art in Moscow. In addition to her representation in the art world, her fame has extended to other areas of the arts, including film and fashion. She has collaborated with Louis Vuitton on her own collection and finally in October this year, a documentary film about Kusama titled 'Kusama: Infinity' by Heather Lenz was released after 17 years in the making.
Studio of the artist Private collection, Italy (acquired from the above in 1991)