At the age of 93, Yayoi Kusama is still actively making art. Some of her most recent creations can be found among her iconic oeuvre on show in a blockbuster retrospective in Hong Kong that celebrates both the artist’s seven-decade artistic journey as well as the first anniversary of M+ museum.
The highly anticipated show, titled “Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now,” features more than 200 works ranging from paintings, sculptures, installations, moving images, and archival materials. Divided into six themes: Infinity, Accumulation, Radical Connectivity, Biocosmic, Death, and Force of Life, the colorful exhibition chronicles the artist’s trajectory, beginning with her formative years in Japan, through to her breakthrough in the West following her move to the U.S. in 1957, and finally to the decades after her return to her native country in 1973.
Kusama is now a household name in the art world. She has earned the title of the best-selling Japanese artist in the world, according to data from Artnet Price Database, with sales of her works reaching more than $1 billion as of the beginning of this month. Widely regarded as one of the most influential artists from Asia, her work has been exhibited across the globe, including in previous retrospectives such as the 2012 shows at Tate Modern in London and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the 2017 exhibition at National Gallery Singapore, and last year’s presentation at Gropius Bau in Berlin, which closed in May at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
So why is M+ staging another Kusama retrospective, and how is it different from its predecessors? “Her New York years had been highlighted and focused upon again and again. However, for me, what has been under-examined is [the period] after she returned to Japan,” Doryun Chong, M+’s deputy director and chief curator, told Artnet News. Chong co-curated the Hong Kong retrospective with independent curator Mika Yoshitake.
Kusama went through a personal crisis after returning to her native country in the 1970s. She was an outcast in Japan, noted Chong, and was soon forgotten by the American art world. But she continued to reinvent her practice and slowly clawed her way back in the 1980s and 1990s to become Japan’s representative at the 1993 Venice Biennale.
“It took her 20 years to get there from 1973. This is the part that we put a lot of emphasis on [in the show], giving equal or even more weight to the second half of her career,” Chong said.
The M+ exhibition, which runs until May 14, 2023, is accompanied by a series of public programs as well as a range of exclusive merchandise. The museum has even teamed up with Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) to create a Kusama-themed MTR train, complete with images of the artist’s famous dotted pumpkins.
Here are some highlights from “Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now”.