Yayoi Kusama, Queen of Polka Dots, At the Bangkok Art Biennale

Yayoi Kusama, Queen of Polka Dots, At the Bangkok Art Biennale

Yayoi Kusama, Queen of Polka Dots, At the Bangkok Art Biennale

How wonderful it is to be in Bangkok while so many art shows are happening at the same time. It’s easy to be spoilt for choice since they take place at 20 locations throughout the city. The Kingdom’s inaugural art festival that began last October 19 will run until next February 3. Among the six artists not to be missed is Yayoi Kusama, whose work commands the highest price of any woman artist. Her iconic works known for extensive use of polka dots and infinity installations are exhibited for the first time in Thailand. It’s also her second in Southeast Asian, the first of which happened in 2017 hosted by the National Gallery Singapore.

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Story: Skiixy 

Yayoi Kusama at age 10, photo courtesy of © Yayoi Kusama / Studio Yayoi Kusama, Inc.

Born March 22, 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan, Yayoi Kusama began painting, drawing and writing as a child. At roughly the same time, she began to suffer from hallucinations about endless fields of dots. The experience involving the perception of something not actually present continued to have a great influence on her art. She started painting while in secondary school, mostly of people, animals and things that she saw around her. Kusama received some art training for a short time. Even then it was against the wish of her family that insisted on her learning etiquettes and household affairs. She studied mainly classical Japanese painting known as Nihonga at the Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts, but didn’t have a fondness for it.

Onions painted like real on a rolling check background give the impression that they are constantly in motion. It’s one of the most outstanding works that Yayoi Kusama painted early in life, circa 1948. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Driven by family conflict and the desire to become an artist, then 27-year-old Kusama moved to New York in 1957. She gradually became known for exhibiting works that were unique to her style in the 1960’s. Worthy of attention were her “Infinity Net” paintings, hallucinatory repetitions of dots and loops that she painted in response to watching waves in the ocean as she flew for the first time from Tokyo. Amid fears, they became an inspiration leading to paintings that were representative of the idea of infinity. Resembling a hallucination, the paintings consisted of countless tiny brush marks repeated over and over across seemingly endless canvases, hence the term Infinity Net. The second of her Infinity Net canvases were sold for 7.1 million USD (roughly 227 million Baht) in 2014, a record for any living woman artist.


One of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Net paintings. The second of these canvases sold for a record 7.1 million USD in 2014. / Image courtesy of the artist/The Creators Project.
My Flower Bed (1962), one of Yayoi Kusama’s installations on display in New York, circa 1965. / Photo courtesy of © Yayoi Kusama / Studio Yayoi Kusama, Inc.

It was in New York that Kusama witnessed the emerging Minimalist movement and experienced greater freedom that led to her breakthrough works. She became a central figure in the thriving art scene, and her work gradually transitioned to pop art, performing art and installations that she exhibited alongside of those of New York’s big names during the mid-1960’s
“Self-Obliteration by Dots 1968”, a live performance by Yayoi Kusama in New York.

Photo courtesy of © Yayoi Kusama, Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.
“Insects” 1980, from a collection of collages made of pastel paint and color ink on paper. / Photo courtesy of the artist.

At age 43, Kusama returned to Japan unhappy with happenings in New York in the early 1970’s. Obsessive repetition continued to pervade her works in sculpture, installation art and a mix of surreal literary works. She later got into trade in art but wasn’t very successful. From 1977, she voluntarily lived in Seiwa, a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo, where she received treatment and continued to make art and write surreal fictions and poetry.

Nowadays, mention the name Yayoi Kusama, and the images of pumpkins painted with polka dots spring to mind. The avant-garde artist is passionate about pumpkins. She has used them as a medium to convey her thoughts since 1946 when she was in Matsumoto, her hometown.

Kusama returned to the international art world in the early 1990’s with touring shows that started from America to England to Italy. Her pumpkin series were exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1993. Her unusual, experimental ideas took the world by storm when she collaborated with the French fashion brand Louis Vuitton in designing and making haute couture clothing and handbags.

Here is a time-lapse video clip from Selfridges & Co, a high-end department store in the United Kingdom.

For the art lovers in Thailand, the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale is presenting Yayoi Kusama’s “Inflatable Pumpkin Balloons” at Central World. There are 14 beautiful pieces to see, ranging from suspended pumpkin balloons in vivacious colors to polka dot pumpkin installations. The amazing visual art exhibition that began last October 19 will run until next February 3. So you had better hurry!

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Before It Came To Be the “Pumpkins” Project by Yayoi Kusuma
Before It Came To Be the “Pumpkins” Project by Yayoi Kusuma

30 Works of Art You Can’t Miss at BAB 2018
30 Works of Art You Can’t Miss at BAB 2018

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