Yayoi Kusama: Japan’s Premiere Contemporary Artist

Yayoi Kusama (b. March 22,1929) is considered to be one of the most important living artists of Japan. Her contemporary works are based in conceptual art and shows some attributes of pop art, abstract expressionism, minimalism, surrealism and feminism, among other things. Kusama’s works are primarily centered in sculpture and installation (an artistic genre of three-dimensional works), but she also dabbles in painting, poetry, fashion, film and other arts.

American Abstract Impressionism gave inspiration to Yayoi Kusama. Having grown up in Matsumoto, her initial training was at the Kyoto School of Arts and Crafts. Kusama was schooled in a traditional Japanese painting style called nihonga. In 1958, Kusama moved to New York and became part of the New York avant-garde scene all throughout the 1960’s. Kusama caught the public’s attention when she put together a series of events wherein participants, while naked, were painted with colorful polka dots.

Yayoi Kusama. | 平成28年度 文化勲章受章者:文部科学省

In the 1970’s, Kusama remained a popular icon in the artistic community and her most notable installations are found in various museums all around the world.

When in Japan, here are some places where you can view some of Yayoi Kusama’s works:

Naoshima Island – the island is located on Seto Inland Sea in Kagawa prefecture and is often referred to as “an art island”. Kusama’s pumpkin sculpture has come to define the island and has become its symbol.

Pumpkin sculpture. | Amaury Laporte

Numerous museums and outdoor art exhibits are found in Naoshima and is a perfect place to get some inspiration.

Towada Art Center – located in Towada City, Aomoori prefecture, the museum houses a permanent collection from 38 commissioned artworks by great artists including Yayoi Kusama. Her sculputes, “Love Forever, Singing in Towada” are exhibited at the museum’s outdoor space.

Matsumoto City Museum of Art  – Matsumoto City, Nagano is popular for Matsumoto Castleand as well as being the birthplace of Yayoi Kusama.

“Infinity Mirrors”. | Edsel Little

Her renowned sculpture, “Flowers that Bloom at Midnight” is displayed at the entrance of the Matsumoto City Museum of Art , among several more of her artworks.

Kirishima Open-air Museum –  located in Yusui town in Kagoshima prefecture, is an open-air museum with a 20 hectare space that exhibit numerous artworks outdoors as well as their indoor Art Hall. Kusama’s “Flowers of Shangri-la” and “High Heel” can be viewed here.