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Yayoi Kusama: Polka Dot Queen (草間 彌生)

Think about polka dots and you might associate them with Japanese artist Kusama Yayoi.

Born in Nagano into an upper-middle-class family she started creating art at an early age. Later in her life, she  turned her interest to the European and American avant-garde and in 1957 she moved to NYC where she produced a series of paintings influenced by the abstract expressionist movement. During these years she worked in a wide variety of media, including painting, sculpture, performances, naked happenings, installations and anti-war protests. In the late 60s, Kusama organised “Body Festivals” in which naked participants were painted with brightly colored polka dots.

kusama early works 01

kusama early works

From room-size installations, to cute sculptures of pumpkins, dogs and flowers, she has covered almost everything in brightly painted polka dots, a trademark of her work.

"Walking in my Mind" Hayward’s Centre, 2009 London, UK

“Walking in my Mind” Hayward’s Centre, 2009 London, UK

"Walking in my Mind",  2009

“Walking in my Mind”, 2009

"Walking in my Mind",  2009

“Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees” 2009, London, UK

“Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees” 2009, London, UK

“…a polka-dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm. Round, soft, colorful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots become movement… Polka dots are a way to infinity.” Yayoi Kusama, Manhattan Suicide Addict, 2005



Pumpkin (2006), Naoshima

Pumpkin (2006), Naoshima

Pumpkin (2006), Naoshima

Pumpkin (2006), Naoshima

In 1973, Kusama moved back to Japan.  Having suffered nervous disorders and hallucinations since childhood, she voluntarily admitted herself to a psychiatric hospital, and built a studio opposite where she continues to produce artworks in a variety of mediums and published several novels and an autobiography.

“My art originates from hallucinations only I can see. I translate the hallucinations and obsessional images that plague me into sculptures and paintings. All my works in pastels are the products of obsessional neurosis and are therefore inextricably connected to my disease. I create pieces even when I don’t see hallucinations, though.” Interview Yayoi Kusama by Grady Turner, Bomb 66/Winter 1999, Art

Major retrospectives of her works have been held at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and Tate Modern .

"Yellow Trees” Takes Over Meatpacking District Building, 2012

“Yellow Trees” Takes Over Meatpacking District Building, 2012

In 2012, Marc Jacobs invited her as the company collaborator for the creation of “Infinity Kusama ”. The theme was graphic polka dots — Yayoi’s signature work— and it was offered in a series of sizes and colors. LV around the world featured window installations specially designed to mark this collaboration.

Louis Vuitton & Kusama concept store at Selfridges, 2012

Louis Vuitton & Kusama concept store at Selfridges, 2012

Kusama Yayoi + Louis Vuitton, 2012

Kusama Yayoi  + Louis Vuitton

Kusama Yayoi + Louis Vuitton

I like her work and I like her life. Needless to say she’s a very complex artist but I find fascinating that she was able to tame her inner demons with art. Her world was filled with a lot of negative energy since she was young but she has had the ability to metamorphose this energy into amazing, overwhelming and of course totally OCD artworks.

Kusama Yayoi Official Website:

All photos on this blog were snapped by me unless otherwise noted. If you see something you’d like to share, please be sure to provide a link back to this space. Thank you!


  1. I love the first pictures in B&W from the sixties … In 1969, during a stay in Japan, she staged a memorable performance involving stakeholders totally naked in front of the Imperial Palace … She created an egalitarian and anti-macho art. A great lady, born in 1929 and still active in 2013!

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