Her obsession with polka dots is the result of hallucinations she experienced as a kid. She covered trees, pumpkins, walls, floors, household objects and naked assistants in polka dots. She poured thousands of mirrored balls into a pond and also scattered them inside a hurricane-damaged train garage. She calls it her “repetitive vision. I still see them. They cover the canvas and grow on to the floor, the ceiling, chairs and tables. Then the polka dots move to the body, on to my clothes and into my spirit.”
Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese contemporary artist whose field of work is primarily sculpture and installation. She is one of the top selling living female artists in the world. Today she is the female artist who has sold the most works exceeding one million euros. Her record is $8 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2019. She is also the most quoted female artist on the art market and is known as the most important artist to come from Japan.
As of Friday, we can all witness the works of this eccentric orange-haired magical creature at the Gropius Bau. Running through summer, an exhibition A Bouquet of Love I Saw in the Universe is the first comprehensive retrospective in Germany to Kusama’s work. It spans over her 70 productive years and features a number of current works, including her new Infinity Mirror Room, a one-of-a-kind experience that makes you feel as a tiny speck amongst something greater.
New exhibition also explores her lesser-known artistic activity in Germany and Europe. Not many know that Yayoi Kusama is, among other things, an active painter, performance artist, filmmaker, and poet.
For instance, in 1960 the artist launched her own label, making experimental clothes and costumes which later became a part of her performances. She even collaborated with Louis Vuitton and used her polka dot motif to decorate the label’s handbags.
Another lesser-known fact is her New York years friendship with Andy Warhol. They even copied each other’s ideas. In 1963 she did a show in New York covering a rowing boat with phallic objects and wallpapered the room with repeated identical photocopies of the picture, in Warhol’s manner, which started her sculpture series, called Accumulations. Warhol used the wallpaper idea, too, at a show in 1966, where he repeated a screen print of a cow.
Although she never married or had children, Kusama did have relationships, including with a famous artist Joseph Cornell. It was a romantic friendship between two quiet neurotics. The pair were a good match, Kusama has said, because they both “didn’t like sex.”
After years of financial and emotional instability and being disgruntled by the art scene, Kusama returned to Japan in 1973 and eventually checked herself into Seiwa Hospital, a mental institution, where she still lives.
"Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos. Polka dots are a way to infinity. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment."
We invite you to visit the exhibition and immerse in Kusama’s world of eternity, at least for a little while. It’s definitely magic in there.