Yayoi Kusama's Background
Yayoi Kusama is one of Japan’s most popular contemporary artists, known mostly for her paintings and installations. At the age of 94, Kusama is still immersing herself in a variety of art forms including fashion, poetry and video art. You might have seen that just last year, the artist had a collaboration with the luxury fashion brand, Louis Vuitton.
Her work has been displayed in cities all over the world including London, Rome and Barcelona. She has also won many awards and is currently one of the highest-selling female artists.
Many people are drawn to her work not only because of its playfulness and vibrancy but because it is deeply personal, emotional and thought-provoking.
What is her art style?
Primarily conceptual in nature, Kusama’s artwork also displays aspects of minimalism, surrealism, pop art as well as influences from certain social movements such as feminism. As highlighted, much of Kusama’s work is autobiographical and is based on the power of the psyche. Her most famous pieces include Dots Obsession, Pumpkins and the Infinity Room.
Where Can I See Her Artwork?
Across Japan, there are a few different places where you can see Kusama’s work up close. From dedicated museums to temporary exhibitions, here are just some of the places which are definitely worth visiting:
Yayoi Kusama Museum
Tokyo is home to the Yayoi Kusama Museum. This small museum, situated in Shinjuku, hosts two different exhibitions a year in order to categorize and showcase the artists’ work. In the first half of this year, the exhibition being held was ‘Yayoi Kusama’s Self-Obliteration / Psychedelic World’, which explored Kusama’s use of obsession repetition and themes of ‘self-obliteration’ in her artwork.
Now, from the 9th November 2023 to the 24th March 2024, the exhibition which is being held is titled ‘visionary colors’ and will showcase a collection of the artists’ most colorful pieces.
The museum also has its own shop where you can buy merchandise including sweets and mini models. Please note that only those visiting the exhibition can enter this shop.
Tickets for the museum and exhibition cannot be bought on the door so you will need to buy them in advance and book a time slot on the website.
Matsumoto City Museum of Art
If you are planning to visit Kusama’s hometown, Matsumoto, you should head over to the Matsumoto City of Art Museum. It is here that you can see the Collective Exhibition Yayoi Kusama: The Place for My Soul which showcases a history of the artists’ work and features some of her most iconic pieces including a small-scale version of the Infinity Room.
The outside of this museum even pays homage to the contemporary artist as the building is completely covered in dots. You can also admire the gigantic metal installation known as the Visionary Flowers. You can even get a drink from a polkadot vending machine!
In recent years, Kusama’s work has been the subject of many instagram posts with many visitors wanting to pose in front of her various paintings and installations. In most parts of this exhibition, photography is strictly prohibited, however you can take photos of the iconic Yellow Pumpkin. This exhibition instead offers you an opportunity to properly immerse yourself in the mind of Kusama as well as reflect on the messages and feelings her pieces provoke.
At the museum shop, you will find a solid selection of Kusama goods ranging from different books to keyrings. Some of these goods are exclusive to the museum and inspired by the exhibition itself.
Naoshima Art Island
Naoshima, a small island which makes up a part of the Kagawa Prefecture, is famous for being home to a number of contemporary art museums and installations. It is therefore no surprise that you can see some of Kusama’s work.
As soon as you set foot on the island, you are greeted by one of Kusama’s iconic red pumpkins. Yet, the piece de resistance is the Yellow Pumpkin which is located at the end of the pier. Over the years, it has become the symbol of the island and the reason why many people decide to visit the island.
Back in August 2021, videos of the Pumpkin being blown into the water by a typhoon went viral online with many wondering if this was the end of the iconic installation. Luckily, the Yellow Pumpkin is back and better than ever and is still loved by visitors.
Mori Art Museum
Although the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi doesn’t have a permanent exhibition of Kusama’s work, they often host temporary exhibitions which showcase the artist’s work. For instance, back in 2020 to 2021, some of Kusama’s installations and paintings were featured in the STARS: Six Contemporary Artists From Japan to the World Exhibition which was immensely popular and successful. Despite there being no indication now that Kusama’s work will be displayed in the next few months, it is still worth keeping a lookout on the museum’s website as there is a good chance that sometime in the future there will be another exhibition.
In the meantime, you can get your hands on many Kusama goods at the Mori Art Museum shop. Here you will find one of the biggest collections of original goods including display pieces, t-shirts, umbrellas and much more.
As previously mentioned, there are tons of other places across Japan where you can see Kusama’s work, these include:
- Towada Art Center, Aomori
- Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka
- Echigo-Tsumari Art Field, Niigata
It is also worth having a quick search now-and-then and checking the @yayoikusama instagram page to see if any temporary exhibitions are being held in Tokyo or other pages in Japan.
Which of these places will you be heading to first?