Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s–1990s, a major retrospective at Singapore's National Gallery (14 June–15 September 2019), opens emphatically in flames. At the exhibition's entrance, viewers encounter a wall-sized image from 1964 titled Burning Canvases Floating on the River. The photograph captures a performance by Lee Seung-taek, in which...
When the London-born artist Thomas J Price graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Chelsea College of Arts in 2004, the school's college art prize was by no means his most notable accomplishment as an emerging artist. In 2001, Price presented his much-talked-about work Licked, a daring performance, later profiled on the BBC 4 television...
Without punctuation, She Said Why Me, the title of May Fung's 1989 video presents itself as a statement, rather than a question. It suggests a subject who expects no response, a person prepared to make what she can from being chosen though perplexed by the attention. The video follows a blindfolded woman, then unmasked, through late colonial-era...
Exhibition view: Yayoi Kusama, Narcissus Garden, Venice Biennale, Italy (1966). © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai; Victoria
First presented by the artist as an unofficial project outside the Italian pavilion at the 1966 Venice Biennale, Narcissus Garden (1966) consists of 1,500 reflective orbs spread throughout a space. In the work's first iteration, Kusama wore a golden kimono or red onesie and stood amid the plastic orbs alongside signs that read 'Narcissus Garden,' 'Kusama' and 'Your Narcissism for Sale.'
Sometimes referred to as the 'princess of polka dots', Yayoi Kusama is widely recognised as one of the best-selling female artist of the 21st century. Her hypnotic, dotty dreamworlds have led to a worldwide museum craze—between 2014 and 2019, more than five million people queued for the artist's exhibitions around the world.
Born into a wealthy but allegedly unhappy family in Matsumoto, Japan, in 1929, Kusama felt discouraged from creating art by her mother and father. As a child, art-making became an act of rebellion for her. Her training as an artist began at Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts, where she studied nihonga—a form of traditional Japanese painting. However, the artist disagreed with the rigid hierarchy of the genre. In hopes of finding success in the United States, she wrote to painter Georgia O'Keeffe (whose address she had found at the American Embassy in Tokyo) for advice on entering the New York art world. To her surprise, O'Keeffe replied, warning her of the difficulties of working in the city.
In 1958, Kusama found the courage to relocate to New York, where she found herself in the thick of the avantgarde movements of the time. Surrounded by Minimalism and Pop art and incorporating elements of both into her work, the artist's critical acclaim is pinned to the 'Infinity Net' series (1958–ongoing) that she began at this time: canvases engulfed by hundreds or thousands of small, colourful loops of paint. In 2014, White No. 28, which belongs to the series, reached USD7.1 million at Christie's.
Kusama has often referred to repetition of form as offering her solace from the traumas she has battled with since her youth. As a young girl, the artist recalls that her mother would ask her to spy on her father and she has referred to the frequently incorporated phallic forms in her work, as seen in her 'Accumulation' series, begun in 1962, as an act of reconciliation with her childhood fears regarding what she might see. 'Accumulation' comprises soft sculptures made of found furniture covered in sewn, white penis forms. Later, the artist would fill entire rooms with these soft forms—such as Compulsion Furniture (Accumulation) (c 1964): a room filled with phallus-covered furniture. The installations that she created in the 1960s were precursors to her best-known infinity rooms of today. In 1965, mirrors first appeared in the artist's work Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli's Field (1965), in which the floor of a square, mirrored room was covered in a layer of white, stuffed phalluses dotted in red.
A decline in the artist's mental health in the early 1970s saw her return to Japan. In 1977, she checked herself into a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo where she has lived ever since—her studio is located across the road. Her own museum (Yayoi Kusama Museum), dedicated to her life-long practice, was founded in Shinjuku Ward in 2017. In recent years, the artist's repetitive dot motifs have spawned a set of mirror-room exhibitions internationally, including Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Obsession, whose worldwide tour reached the biggest global audience for an art exhibition in 2015. In 2017, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC debuted another touring exhibition titled Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors. Two-hour queueing times did not dampen the enthusiasm of thousands of visitors, who were granted a brief half-minute slot of solitude within the infinity rooms.
2018 marked the UK release of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity, a documentary directed by Heather Lenz that traces the artist's career, showing the artist not solely as a product of social media and market success, but an example of perseverance against the odds.
The career of Joan Mitchell, who once likened Clement Greenberg to a 'toilet seat,' ought to remind us of how tribal the art world continues to be. There are those who want to belong to clubs and acquire the proper affiliations, and there are others who don't or can't belong to anything of the sort, even the cliques that would gladly welcome them....
Art Basel 2019 opens to the public on Thursday, June 13, with two preview days, on June 11 and 12. Some 290 galleries from 34 countries will show work at the Swiss fair, which runs through June 16.
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The American abstract expressionist painter Joan Mitchell rose to prominence during the second half of the 20th century; she was known for her large-scale canvas works, an outpouring of exuberant brushstrokes and blazing colour. Mitchell was one of the rare women artists of her time to achieve the same level of acclaim as her male contemporaries,...
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