Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929 Matsumoto, Japan) is primarily recognized for her sculpture and installation, particularly her mirrored or brightly polka-dotted environments, although her practice spans media including painting, performance, literary work, film, fashion, design, and more.
Kusama’s work is marked by repeating images that focus on certain themes like psychology, obsession, and autobiographical self-reflection. She began painting at a young age in order to express her childhood and hallucinogenic visions, and she has since incorporated dots and patterns that suggest her ongoing struggle with mental illness.
Born in Matsumoto, Japan, Kusama studied painting in Kyoto before moving to New York in 1958, where she befriended Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Donald Judd, and Eva Hesse. While in New York she produced hallucinatory paintings, created her celebrated Infinity Mirror Room installation series in 1965, and staged numerous performances, including a 1969 intervention at MoMA in which the artist painted dots onto naked performers while they posed in the fountain of the museum’s sculpture garden. Although she gained recognition during her time in New York, she returned to Japan in 1973 and, in 1977, took up residence at the mental hospital where she continues to live to this day.
Kusama lived in obscurity for several decades after her return, but resurfaced in the public eye as the first woman to represent Japan in the Venice Biennale in 1993. The French Ministry of Culture awarded Kusama with the Odre des Arts et Lettres in 2003, and she received both the Praemium Imperiale prize from the Japanese Art Association, one of the country’s highest honors for artists, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art in 2006. In 2017, a museum dedicated to her work the Yayoi Kusama Museum, opened in Tokyo. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC; the National Gallery Singapore; and David Zwirner Gallery in New York also held major solo exhibitions of the artist in 2017
Her work is included in major public collections, among them the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.