Women Artists

Yayoi Kusama and Her World of Polka Dots

Zuzanna Stańska 12 March 2024 min Read

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist and writer, born in 1929. Well-known for her repeating dot patterns, her art encompasses an astonishing variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film, performance and immersive installation. It ranges from works on paper featuring intense semi-abstract imagery, to soft sculpture known as Accumulations, to her Infinity Net paintings, made up of carefully repeated arcs of paint built up into large patterns.

But we are here to tell you about her obsession with polka dots.

Since 1977 Kusama has lived voluntarily in a psychiatric institution, and much of her work has been marked with obsessiveness and a desire to escape from psychological trauma. In an attempt to share her experiences, she creates installations that immerse the viewer in her obsessive vision of endless dots and nets or infinitely mirrored space.

Installation view: Yayoi Kusama – In Infinity, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art; Humlebaek, Denmark
Installation view: Yayoi Kusama – In Infinity, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art; Humlebaek, Denmark. Photo by Kim Hansen. InExhibit.

At the centre of the art world in the 1960s, she came into contact with artists including Donald Judd, Andy Warhol, Joseph Cornell and Claes Oldenburg, influencing many along the way. She has traded on her identity as an ‘outsider’ in many contexts – as a female artist in a male-dominated society, as a Japanese person in the Western art world, and as a victim of her own neurotic and obsessional symptoms.

Yayoi Kusama polka dots Yayoi Kusama, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins
Yayoi Kusama, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore and Victoria Miro, London. © Yayoi Kusama.

After achieving fame and notoriety with groundbreaking art happenings and events, she returned to her country of birth and is now Japan’s most prominent contemporary artist.

In September 2017 in Tokyo, the museum dedicated to her work was opened. It is operated by a foundation she created to support the display of her paintings and immersive installations even after her death.

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