Japan's 'polka-dot queen' Kusama gets first museum

A visitor looking at the sculpture titled Starry Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama, known for her polka dots and pumpkins, during a media preview of the museum in Tokyo on Tuesday.
A visitor looking at the sculpture titled Starry Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama, known for her polka dots and pumpkins, during a media preview of the museum in Tokyo on Tuesday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO • The first museum devoted to Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama opened its doors yesterday, featuring trademark colourful paintings and spotted pumpkin statues from the so-called "polka-dot queen".

The 88-year-old, named the world's most popular artist in 2014 by The Art Newspaper, said she had accomplished her "profound lifelong hope of having everyone be able to see my artwork".

The first exhibition at the museum, housed in a stark white building in Tokyo's Shinjuku district, features 45 works created between 2004 and this year, including a series entitled My Eternal Soul.

True to form, it includes a sparkly pumpkin statue, large colourful paintings with meticulously replicated drawings of dots and eyes, and red polka dots on mirrors inside a toilet.

Kusama said in a statement that she wanted visitors to "see and feel my philosophy towards life... all my love devoted to all beloved humans through a sincere, lifelong endeavour towards art".

Born in 1929 in central Japan's Nagano prefecture, Kusama suffered psychological trauma due to feuding between her parents. She was already drawing dots and nets as a child, based on her hallucinatory experiences.

She moved to the United States at 28 and spent 16 years in New York at the height of the sexual liberation movement.

By the time Kusama returned to Japan in 1973, she was burnt out and voluntarily checked into a psychiatric ward, where she has lived ever since.

It was not until the 1990s that Kusama was rediscovered. Her polka dots and pumpkins were a perfect fit for a highly commercialised art market, with collectors drawn to her instantly recognisable style. The exhibition opens to the public on Oct 1.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2017, with the headline 'Japan's 'polka-dot queen' Kusama gets first museum'. Print Edition | Subscribe