“This is the best moment of my life,” Yayoi Kusama told Whitney Museum Director Adam Weinberg. On the brink of a retrospective at the museum and the unveiling of a much-hyped collaboration with Louis Vuitton, the eighty-two-year-old artist is most definitely on the rise. A well-known pop artist in New York in the ’60s, she returned to Japan in 1973 and checked herself into the psychiatric institution where she still lives today. In 1998, a major touring retrospective initiated a belated, and still growing, surge of appreciation for her work.
The current retrospective, which previously appeared at the Tate Modern, reveals a prolific career spanning six decades and a varied breadth of work, seemingly embracing every medium. The exhibit also includes archival publications: photographs, posters, letters, films, and even sketchbooks. Well known for pop art pieces and avant-garde performance art in the ’60s and ’70s, Kusama is also celebrated for the surreal works she has produced in Japan since 1973.
The pieces on display share a recognizable hallucinatory spirit and obsessiveness. Kusama’s early paintings and works on paper offer aggressive depictions of nature, for example representing the sky or plants with red hues and repetitive, chaotic lines and dots. Kusama is arguably most revered for her Infinity Net paintings, expansive works textured with fields of dots, and her Accumulations, ordinary objects (a chair, dress, or bowl) enveloped by phallic cloth shapes. The final room displays recent work; these large, colorful, acrylic paintings are both playful and mischievous.
This chronological presentation provides historical context for this ever-evolving figure, who is likely to receive even wider exposure thanks to her new fashion collaboration. Louis Vuitton President Yves Carcel remarked that the store window on 5th and 57th, displaying Kusama’s collaborative pieces for the collection, would be unveiled mere hours after the press preview for the Whitney exhibition. He also shrewdly warned: dots are about to invade the world.