Yayoi Kusama Untitled c. 1965 © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner, Ota Fine Arts, and Victoria Miro

Biography

Born 1929
Nationality Japanese
Birth place Matsumoto, Japan

Yayoi Kusama is one of the most iconic artists of the post-war era. She grew up in Nagano Prefecture, a mountainous region about 130 miles west of Tokyo. As a teenager Kusama was forced to sew for hours on end during her conscription to a military parachute factory during the Second World War. The artist would later produce many soft fabric sculptures that were painstakingly sewn by hand. After training at the Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts in 1948–49, Kusama had her first solo exhibition in her hometown in 1952. By 1957 the artist had moved to the United States, settling in New York a year later. Over the next fifteen years in the city, Kusama would develop an innovative and wide-ranging practice that challenged and shaped many aspects of both Pop Art and Minimalism as they emerged as movements of the 1960s. Kusama also orchestrated many performances that intervened in public spaces, known as Happenings, often involving naked participants covered in polka dots. Kusama introduced both collage and sculpture to her practice in 1962, four years after her arrival in New York, and immediately following her cycle of abstract Infinity Net paintings (1958–61). From 1961–64, Kusama's studio was located one floor below that of minimal sculptor Donald Judd, a close friend and champion of her work. Judd helped Kusama salvage many of the objects found abandoned on downtown streets for her Accumulation sculptures begun in 1962 and assisted her in stuffing and sewing their organic fabric shapes. These objects were often grouped together in room-filling installations, in which the artist posed for photographic performances.  Since her permanent return to Japan in 1975, Kusama has voluntarily lived in a psychiatric hospital, making work daily in her nearby studio. She has often spoken about how her artistic practice aids her mental health, stating: ‘I am pursuing art in order to correct the disability which began in my childhood.’