HomePage Artists

b. 1933, Japan

Yoko Ono Biography

Yoko Ono is a pioneer of the 1960s movements of Conceptual and Performance art. Her practice is characterised by its participatory and activist nature.

Read More

Ono was born in Tokyo in 1933 and moved to New York with her family in the early 1950s. She enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College to study writing and music, but never graduated. Nevertheless, she found her niche in the underground New York art scene, where in 1960 she became known for hosting avantgarde events with composers Richard Maxfield and La Monte Young in her Manhattan loft. Her performances of the time often called for audience participation, a trait that would continue throughout her career. Lighting Piece (1955), for example, is a piece of written text that instructs participants to 'Light a match and watch till it goes out.' The piece Painting to Be Stepped On (1960–1961), on the other hand, told them to trample a blank canvas.

Ono also became associated with Fluxus, an international community of artists and composers founded by Lithuanian-American artist George Maciunas in 1960. While Fluxus lacked a defining style, it was identified by the do-it-yourself spirit that its members shared, utilising whatever materials and methods at hand to create art pieces and staged performances. Ono held her first solo exhibition at Maciunas' AG Gallery in New York, in 1961 (Paintings & Drawings of Yoko Ono), which led to collaborations between the pair, such as the poster for Do It Yourself Fluxfest Presents Yoko Ono & Dance Co. (1966). A combination of Yoko's instructional texts and Maciunas' illustrations, the work features a four-by-five grid; in it, a panel commands, '7TH DAY: FIND A CLOVER', followed by 'SEND US MEASUREMENTS AND WEIGHT OF ALL POSSIBLE PARTS OF H THE CLOVER.'

Through her experimental artworks, Ono contemplates humanitarian concerns, advocating for social change. In 1969, for example, the artist rallied for world peace with her late husband the musician John Lennon. They both stayed in bed and made their honeymoon suites public to reporters for two one-week periods as a form of nonviolent protest against war (Bed-Ins for Peace). In 2016, Ono initiated 'Arising', an ongoing project that asks for women around the world to share instances when they were mistreated for being a woman and send a photograph of their eyes. The testaments were exhibited as a wall installation at Reykjavík Art Museum in Iceland that year. 'Arising' has since been reiterated in solo exhibitions including Peace is Power at Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig, and Growing Freedom at the Fondation Phi pour l'art contemporain, Montreal, in 2019.

Ono's recent activist concerns include the refugee crisis, which she addressed through her participatory installation Add Color (Refugee Boat) (1960/2019) for Lower Manhattan's River to River Festival in 2019. Consisting of a white room with a white rowing boat in it, the artwork invited participants to cover all available surfaces with scribbles, drawings, and writing. Over the course of the festival, messages of love and peace ensued in multiple languages. Through the human presence that was required to complete the piece, Ono stressed the value of collective work—including that of immigrants and refugees—that builds the United States. Add Color (Refugee Boat) is part of her 'Add Color Painting' series of works (1961–ongoing) that ask the audience to paint over the white surfaces of ordinary objects or canvas.

In 2015, Ono's major works from the first 11 years of her career were featured in the retrospective exhibition Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971 at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2009, she was awarded a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 53rd Venice Biennale.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2019

Yoko Ono Featured Artworks

touch me (edition) by Yoko Ono contemporary artwork
Yoko Onotouch me (edition), 2008Primed canvas
12 x 12 inches
Galerie Lelong & Co. New York Contact Gallery
Le Rouge et Le Noir by Yoko Ono contemporary artwork
Yoko OnoLe Rouge et Le Noir, 2017Cast block glass, red sheet glass etched, pigment, screenprint
22.2 x 15.2 x 4.4 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. New York Contact Gallery
A Woman's Life by Yoko Ono contemporary artwork
Yoko OnoA Woman's Life, 2019Cast block glass, green sheet glass etched, pigment, screenprint
25.4 x 17.1 x 2.5 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. New York Contact Gallery
Disappearing Piece by Yoko Ono contemporary artwork
Yoko OnoDisappearing Piece, 1965/1988Bronze
3.2 x 17.8 x 10.2 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. New York Contact Gallery
Cleaning Piece by Yoko Ono contemporary artwork
Yoko OnoCleaning Piece, 1966/1988Bronze
15.9 x 38.1 x 25.4 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. New York Contact Gallery

Yoko Ono Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, RED at Galerie Lelong & Co. New York, New York
Closed
10 April–8 May 2020 Group Exhibition RED Galerie Lelong & Co. New YorkOnline Only
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Fluxus ABC at Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna
Closed
18 December 2019–14 February 2020 Group Exhibition Fluxus ABC Galerie Krinzinger, Galerie Krinzinger, ViennaGalerie Krinzinger
Contemporary art exhibition, Yoko Ono, THE RIVERBED at Galerie Lelong & Co. New York, New York
Closed
11 December 2015–28 January 2016 Yoko Ono THE RIVERBED Galerie Lelong & Co. New YorkNew York

Yoko Ono Represented By

Yoko Ono In Ocula Magazine

View All (5)
How Keith Haring Acquired the Painting Sotheby’s Priced at Just $100 Ocula News How Keith Haring Acquired the Painting Sotheby’s Priced at Just $100 New York, 8 September 2020

David Bowes distinctly remembers the day he traded paintings with the iconic New York artist.

Fade out copy.
Read More
The Major Biennales Going Ahead in 2020 Ocula News The Major Biennales Going Ahead in 2020 London, 8 July 2020

Despite numerous cancellations and postponements, several significant biennales in Europe and Asia will take place this year.

Fade out copy.
Read More
RoseLee Goldberg: Performance Then and Now Ocula Conversation RoseLee Goldberg: Performance Then and Now By Fawz Kabra

RoseLee Goldberg had long been invested in contemporary performance art before her founding of the inter-disciplinary arts organisation Performa in New York in 2004. Born in Durban, South Africa, Goldberg studied political science and fine arts at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and then art history at the Courtauld...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Aesthetic Radicalism in ‘Awakenings’ at Singapore’s National Gallery Ocula Report Aesthetic Radicalism in ‘Awakenings’ at Singapore’s National Gallery By Sam Gaskin, Singapore

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...

Fade out copy.
Read More

Yoko Ono In Related Press

View All (21)
Yoko Ono, More Urgent Than Ever Related Press Yoko Ono, More Urgent Than Ever 12 October 2019, Hyperallergic

SYRACUSE, New York — Could it be that some of the themes of Yoko Ono's work, from a career that has spanned more than six decades, feel more relevant, resonant, and urgent than ever? This is one of the unexpected questions posed by Yoko Ono: Remembering the Future, a mini-retrospective of the now 86-year-old artist's work in various forms...

Fade out copy.
Read More
New York's MoMA unveils $450m expansion and 'remix' of collection Related Press New York's MoMA unveils $450m expansion and 'remix' of collection 10 October 2019, The Guardian

New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) unveiled its new $450m expansion on Thursday in a revamp of the gallery – including a radical "remix" of its permanent collection, which will see famous works exhibited alongside those of lesser-known artists. The popular Manhattan museum, which attracts 3 million visitors a year, has been closed...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Manchester International Festival welcomes David Lynch, Yoko Ono and more Related Press Manchester International Festival welcomes David Lynch, Yoko Ono and more 15 July 2019, Wallpaper*

The Manchester International Festival – a biennial incubator of international art and cultural projects – is in full swing, offering a diverse spread of exhibitions and events across the city. The festivities kicked off earlier in July with Yoko Ono's mass ring-a-thon, Bells for Peace. The artist's message was clear as, via video link, she...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Yoko Ono joins the clangers: why bell-ringing is the new bed-in Related Press Yoko Ono joins the clangers: why bell-ringing is the new bed-in 3 July 2019, The Guardian

John Lennon once called Imagine 'an ad campaign for peace'. Sadly, it wasn't a very successful campaign; war has remained incomprehensibly popular even as the song itself has become ubiquitous – it topped a 1999 poll to find Britain's favourite song lyric. Written as the Vietnam war raged, Imagine now seems clearly influenced by Lennon's wife...

Fade out copy.
Read More

Yoko Ono In Video & Audio

Thomas Schulte speaks about the exhibitions 'Everything Is Going To Be OK' and 'Listen To a Heart Beat' Related Video & Audio Thomas Schulte speaks about the exhibitions 'Everything Is Going To Be OK' and 'Listen To a Heart Beat' 7 July 2020, Galerie Thomas Schulte

Thomas Schulte speaks about Allan McCollum's exhibition Everything Is Going To Be OK and the simultaneous group show Listen To a Heart Beat, both of which are on view at Galerie Thomas Schulte from 23 May to 11 July 2020.

Fade out copy.
View Video

Be among the first to know when new artworks and exhibitions by Yoko Ono are added to Ocula.

WeChat

Scan the QR Code via WeChat to follow Ocula's official account.

Scan to follow Ocula on WeChat.
;