Yayoi Kusama

born 1929

Yayoi Kusama, ‘The Passing Winter’ 2005
The Passing Winter 2005
© Yayoi Kusama
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Biography

Yayoi Kusama (草間 彌生, Kusama Yayoi, born March 22, 1929) is a Japanese contemporary artist who works primarily in sculpture and installation, but is also active in painting, performance, film, fashion, poetry, fiction and other arts. During the 1960s she was a part of the New York avant-garde scene, especially in the pop-art movement. Since participating in the Japanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1993 she has been exhibiting actively and has gained widespread international recognition. In 2017 a fifty-year retrospective of her work opened at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC. Also that year the Yayoi Kusama Museum was inaugurated in Tokyo.

New York City, where she produced a series of paintings influenced by abstract expressionism. Switching to sculpture and installation as her primary media, Kusama became a fixture of the New York avant-garde during the early 1960s when she became associated with the pop art movement. Embracing the rise of the hippie counterculture of the late 1960s, she came to public attention when she organized a series of happenings in which naked participants were painted with brightly colored polka dots. Although temporarily forgotten after departing the New York art scene in the early 1970s, Kusama is now acknowledged as one of the most important living artists to come out of Japan, and an important voice of the avant-garde.

Kusama's work is based in conceptual art and shows some attributes of feminism, minimalism, surrealism, Art Brut, pop art, and abstract expressionism, and is infused with autobiographical, psychological, and sexual content. Kusama is also a published novelist and poet, and has created work in film, and fashion design. Major retrospectives of her work have been held at the Museum of Modern Art (in 1998), the Whitney Museum and the Tate Modern (in 2012), and the Hirshhorn Museum (2017). In 2006, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women's Caucus for Art. Two years later, Christie's New York sold a work by her for $5.1 million, at the time the record price paid for a work by a living female artist. In 2015, the website Artsy named Kusama one of its top 10 living artists of the year.

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