Phalluses, polka dots and pumpkins: it’s the Kusama trifecta, the trio that elicits instant recognition from even the most art-ignorant of the masses, the visuals which have become synonymous with artist Yayoi Kusama. “Yes, she is the polka dot lady who makes the pumpkins,” says Doryun Chong, deputy director, curatorial, and chief curator at M+ museum with a hint of exasperation. “But she’s also so much more than that.”
When we speak, Chong is gearing up for Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now, the long-awaited exhibition at M+ which charts the breadth and depth of her prolific career and seeks to deliver the critical acclaim which is often overshadowed by the artist’s mainstream appeal.
Four years in the making, the exhibition, which opens on November 12, is curated by Chong and Mika Yoshitake, an independent curator specialising in postwar Japanese art and an expert on Kusama. The format, extent and new commissions of this exhibition will set it apart from the multitudes of shows that have come before it, says Yoshitake. “A lot of other retrospectives have been chronological; ours yields itself to a very open format.”
Chong and Yoshitake have configured the show across six themes that encapsulate motifs and concepts which have been integral to and consistently visible throughout Kusama’s practice: infinity, accumulation, death, force of life, biocosmic, and radical connectivity. More than 200 works, including three brand new ones, have been selected for show in the Hong Kong museum.