Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now, 27 Jun 2023 — 08 Oct 2023

Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now

Guggenheim Bilbao, Avenida Abandoibarra, 2

Japanese artist and writer Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929, Matsumoto, Nagano) is a singular figure who has been revered by art historians for her pioneering career that span multiple art movements from the 1960s to the present, and has achieved the status of a global cultural icon. Over the last seven decades, Kusama has pursued her avant-garde vision with conviction and perfected her personal aesthetic, which reflects her philosophy of life.

This exhibition focuses on the existential questions that drive Kusama’s creative explorations. Through paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations, and archival materials documenting her happenings and performances, the show offers an in-depth survey of Kusama’s work from her first drawings as a teenager during World War II to her most recent immersive, mirrored installations. Organized chronologically and thematically, the show addresses six key themes that recur throughout the artist’s life: Infinity, Accumulation, Radical Connectivity, Biocosmic, Death, and Force of Life. These interrelated themes have recurred and evolved within the obsessive universe of Kusama, who has been valiantly agitating the art scene and society for decades to promote “healing of all mankind”.

The work of Yayoi Kusama rests on self-affirmation, self-destruction, self-promotion, self-invention, self-reference, and the self-portrait, even in those creations where the representation of the artist herself is less evident. This section includes some of the paintings and drawings that Kusama has produced in the genre of the self-portrait, which has occupied a highly prominent place throughout her career. The section begins with her Self-portrait of 1950, a dark painting that is one of the first works to bear this title, where a sunflower in pink flesh tones floats over a human mouth, and is presided over by Portrait (2015), where she combines some of her most characteristic motifs—such as polka dots, pumpkins, nets, and phallic tuber forms—in a composition constructed as a collage and dominated by a hieratic figure.

In the late 1960s, in the countercultural atmosphere generated by the struggle for civil rights and against the Vietnam War, Kusama developed an artistic practice centered on public action and performance. The artist denounced racial and gender stereotypes, criticized American war policy, and attracted the attention of the media with her provocative public happenings, especially those in which nude bodies were covered with polka dots in an act of “self-obliteratio”. This is a fundamental concept in Kusama’s philosophy, which represents liberation as a means of communal healing, to radically connect individuals, especially those who experienced being on the margins of life. Kusama turned to the power of media to propagate her philosophy, while also aiming to increase her visibility and notoriety.

Contacts & Details
tue, wed, thu, fri, sat, sun 10:00 am – 8:00 pm


T: +34 944 35 90 00
M: informacion@guggenheim-bilbao.es

Guggenheim Bilbao, Avenida Abandoibarra, 2

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