my first japanese trip was littered with yayoi kusama references: i passed by the pumpkin in the harbour of naoshima island, i tried to buy one of her books in hiroshima (only to be refused, as it was the last one and apparently there is a rule against selling that) and this year i saw her pink soft-penis-lined boat in the nagoya city art museum, as part of their permanent collection (it is actually an installation which includes, beside the actual boat, 999 pictures of it).

i like her work and her story so, when i heard that tate modern was going to have a retrospective (9.02-5.06), i immediately organized a trip to london. it is the 3rd stop on the madrid-museo reina sofia, paris-centre pompidou, london-tate modern and ny-whitney museum of american art itinerary. i promise to come back with a well-documented review! i’m super excited!

luxury giant louis vuitton is part of the action: they support the tate show and announced a complex collaboration with the polka dot queen supposed to launch in july 2012  (another lv/artist collaboration after stephen sprouse, takashi murakami and richard prince). watch marc jacobs visiting yayoi in her tokyo studio, in 2006. a bit off-topic, i’m thinking that he may not be the only designer inspired by her polka dots: comme des garcons are also widely known for their liberal use of the cute pattern and they even collaborated with the artist in the past. come to think of it, cdg designer rei kawakubo even has the same haircut. hmmm…

yellow pumpkin, naoshima

me inside the red pumpkin, naoshima ferry terminal

with a 60-year career behind her, yayoi kusama is one of japan’s most appreciated artists. after destroying thousands of her own works, she moved to new york in the late 50’s and struggled to establish herself in the art circles with a body of work that ranged from the controversial naked happenings to film, collage and the well-known dot-heavy paintings and installations. after the death of long time partner, joseph cornell, she returned to japan in 1973 feeling unstable and suicidal and has ever since lived in a mental facility nearby her studio.

researching, i found out about her relentless workaholism and impressive work output (100 works during the past 2 years and an estimated 50,000 during her entire career), several hospitalizations due to overworking, a life-long refusal of sex due to early bad experience (it could be her father having left her mother for a tokyo geisha), having used lucio fontana’s studio for a while, having started selling, at the 1966 venice biennale, the 1,500 mirror balls of her installation for a very small price in an attempt to involve the public, having established a fashion label under her name, having used probably most of the available media for self-expression purposes, having found relief by using the obsessive repetitive patterns that populated her childhood hallucinations, etc.

a self-taught, complex artist whose inner demons were tamed by work. obsessive about sex, food and self-obliteration, she embodies a collection of contrasting features, but, although 82 years of age, she has shows all over the world and a huge collaboration with a  fashion household name coming up. the curator of her retrospective is struggling to get her to attend the london opening – she rarely travels as it keeps her from working.

recently, pictures of a white room stickered to death by kids circulated on the internet: it is part of her current look now, see forever show at the queensland gallery of modern art and it is called obliteration room. for two weeks, all visiting children were handed stickers and encouraged to decorate the pristine all-white space. click here for more fun pics!

to find answers for any related question you may have, click here.

i’m counting down the days till i get to london! i can’t wait!

photo credits: google search