Yayoi Kusama at 87: A Message of Peace to the World

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is said to be the most popular living artist in world, so given the atrocities that have occurred in Belgium this week and the fact that the Kusama turned 87 on March 22nd, we are looking to her as a figurehead for peace and compassion.  The Polka Dot Princess, as she has been affectionately christened, is a modern day peacemaker, seemingly quiet and unassuming but with a soul as fierce as her flaming red wig: “My main message is please stop war and live out the brilliance of life. I want to keep my profile as high as possible even after I have died.”  Her artworks have become a byword for positivity with their signature bright polka dots and organic shapes that encourage a childlike curiosity in gallery goers and instagrammers who share her portfolio more than any other living artist.


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Her work, still so Pop and exuberant, has never lost its appeal despite the repetitive nature of her painted patterns which she has obsessively repeated since childhood; a success also illustrated by her sell-out Louis Vuitton polka dots bags in 2012 and the fact that her 2014 tours attracted a record 2 million visitors worldwide.

Somehow the element of surprise and the invitation to play has remained a driving force throughout the artist’s 60-year career, which has spanned a multitude or artistic genres from performance and literature to sculptural installations and interventions within existing architectural structures.

Installations and paintings especially are life-affirming and soul-searching, emotions that are all the more poignant given the artist’s life-long battle with mental illness – she admitted herself into a hospital for the mentally ill in Tokyo in 1977 and has lived there ever since.

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In the video below, filmed for her major retrospective at the David Zwirner gallery in 2013,  Kusama shares a powerful message of peace that has all the more resonance this week as we try to absorb and make sense of the mindlessness of terrorism which has once again claimed so many lives. RIP.