A New Look at the Career of Yayoi Kusama

04.06.2019

Portrait of Yayoi Kusama in her studio. Image © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai; Victoria Miro, London; YAYOI KUSAMA Inc.

It took director Heather Lenz seventeen years to complete her documentary on Yayoi Kusama, the top-selling living female artist in the world.

Now showing in cinemas, Kusama: Infinity retraces the career of this Japanese artist. The film explores her chaotic beginnings right up to the fame and glory she now enjoys, and explains her creative process in detail (one of the things viewers learn is that she never gets rid of draft versions of her work).

Yayoi Kusama, the mother of a kaleidoscopic universe made from dots and mirrors and the star of exhibition spaces and social media, is now a living monument to contemporary art and pop culture. But who remembers how, on her arrival in New York in 1953, she bombarded galleries with parcels containing her works in the hope that one of them might finally take an interest?

That’s where the main point of interest of this documentary lies. Sexism, racism, mental illness, childhood in a Japan ravaged by war, brought up by a mother who tore up her drawings: the film celebrates Yayoi Kusama’s career, but never skirts around the obstacles she faced.

As well as her artistic talent, the film praises the struggle this extraordinary woman has experienced in her determination to get the establishment to take her work seriously. The passage of time has not worn away this energy. At 89, the artist continues to work on her next creations in her Tokyo workshop, surrounded by her army of assistants.

Artist Yayoi Kusama in the Orez Gallery in the Hague, Netherlands (1965) in KUSAMA - INFINITY. Photo credit: Harrie Verstappen. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Artist Yayoi Kusama next to her “Dot Car” (1965) in KUSAMA - INFINITY. Photo credit: Harrie Verstappen. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room-Love Forever, 1966/1994. Installation view, YAYOI KUSAMA, Le Consortium, Dijon, France, 2000. Image © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy of David Zwirner, NewYork; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai; Victoria Miro, London; YAYOI KUSAMA Inc.

Artist Yayoi Kusama drawing in KUSAMA - INFINITY. © Tokyo Lee Productions, Inc. Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Theatrical one-sheet for KUSAMA - INFINITY, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.