I visited the National Art Gallery recently to see Yoyoi Kusama’s works. This was said to be the first major survey of her work held in Southeast Asia, featuring over 120 works across different media.
Yayoi Kusama is said to be “one of the world’s most influential artists”, known for her iconic dots, nets, pumpkins and infinity rooms, and that her art has “captivated millions all over the world”. Her exhibition “YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow” drew record crowds since the opening of the National Art Gallery at the end of 2015.
I am not quite sure why she is so famous, and why her works attract so many. I am not saying her works of dots, pumpkins and phallic symbols are not highly interesting and provocative, but I just wonder why she has this special position as “one of the greatest modern artists”.
In my humble, plebeian non-connoisseur point of view (I know Yoyoi’s supporters would slaughter me for saying this), I think great marketing and positioning helped cement her position. This include the exciting “in” crowd she associated with, and her self-admission to the mental institution – which fits our romantic image of the fascinating mad artist perfectly. As a species, we have ignorantly bypassed great artists like Van Gogh during their lifetimes, and sure hell we are not going to make the same mistake again with this mad one here. Also, her use of apparently simplicity of dots and shapes (sans the phallic symbols) appeal to children – so her exhibitions can be a crowd-drawing family affairs.
I must say the repetitive patterns do appeal to the OCD in me. I really like some of them, just not enough to call her one of the greatest around.
Yoyoi lovers, please don’t shoot me.