‘The poster girls for the globalisation of contemporary art’, ‘the polka-dot princess’, one of the world’s most famous female artists; call Yayoi Kusama what you will, there's no denying her omnipotence. Celebrating her achievements and talents, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, near Copenhagen, Denmark, is hosting the first large-scale exhibition of Kusama’s work in Scandinavia.
'In Infinity' is a true retrospective of the artist’s life, traversing her early watercolours to her psychedelic work in the 1960s, political commentaries from the 1970s and her later, Toyko-based pieces from the 1980s. A sprinkling of design and fashion – most notably collaborations with Louis Vuitton and Issey Miyake – make an appearance also. ‘The exhibition traces Kusama's lifelong interest in the concept of Infinity,’ explains curator Marie Laurberg, ‘which in her work figures both as a spiritual idea, a boundless universe and a psychological abyss.’
While Kusama’s early, avant-garde work in New York may be what shot her to fame, it is not the sole focus of this presentation. ‘The exhibition holds many works from the early period which were rarely if ever exhibited before,’ explains Laurberg. ‘It also focuses on the change in Kusama's artistic practice when she returned to Japan in the early 1970s.’ (Kusama famously returned to Japan for medical treatment to find her art was not embraced by her countrymen. She has since then voluntarily lived in a mental institution, keeping a studio nearby which allows her to continue working. Age has done nothing to slow down the octogenarian artist.) ‘Many of these works from her Tokyo period were never shown outside of Japan before,’ says Laurberg.
Most recent of all are the paints of the ongoing series My Eternal Soul, which Kusama started in 2009. ‘[It is] almost like a visual diary,’ says Laurberg. ‘These colourful paintings are composed horizontally, moving around the canvas in an associative, unbroken creative process, and in them you can trace many shapes and motives by which Kusama reconnects with her very earliest drawings.’
While there is no doubt that her immersive installations of endless dots, nets and mirrored spaces are a huge draw (they have previously drawn record-breaking crowds to exhibitions around the world, including London’s Tate, New York’s MoMA and Moscow’s Garage, to name a few) it is the astounding life this woman continues to lead that will inspire visitors to linger.