7 Facts That Will Change the Way You See Yoko Ono

You may think you know a lot about the artist.

Yoko Ono.

It may seem like you know a lot about Yoko Ono. The artist, who has been prolific and active in the art world since the 1960s, was showing her conceptual work at a gallery in London in 1966 when she met John Lennon (see How Eight Art World Power Couples Met and Fell In Love). She released her first solo album in 1970 entitled Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band. And die-hard Beatles fans blame her for the immensely popular band’s break-up. This year, the artist will have a survey at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. “Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971” will offer a look back at the early years, gathering roughly 125 performances, films, works on paper, installations, and archival materials. In anticipation of the show, we’ve uncovered some things about Ono that may change the way you see her.

1. She was one of the first women accepted to study philosophy at the esteemed Gakushuin University in Tokyo.

2. Her second husband (she had three), film producer Tony Cox, kidnapped and hid their daughter, Kyoko, and joined a Christian cult, cutting off all communication from Ono. Ono did not see her daughter until Kyoko was 31-years-old.

3. While she is known for being a feminist, Ono is also an environmental activist. With her son Sean, Ono co-founded the group Artists Against Fracking, an environmental initiative backed by star powers such as Robert De Niro, Lady Gaga, and Paul McCartney.

4. Ono refuses to get “old” or let her critics influence her. She once wrote an open letter to her critics urging, “Please don’t stop me being the way I am…. Get my energy or shut up.” Respect.

5. While Lennon and Ono were having marital problems, Yoko took the unconventional route. She actively brought Lennon and May Pang, their personal assistant at the time, together, facilitating their relationship. Lennon and May dated for 18 months while he and Ono were separated. Lennon would come to refer to this period of his life as “The Lost Weekend.”

6. Ono created her own ads for her unofficial 1971 Museum of Modern Art exhibition, for which she released flies on museum grounds and invited visitors to track them as they flew around the city. The ads showed her holding the letter “F,” which lined up with the museum’s name so it read “Museum of Modern [F]Art.” No one can deny she’s got a sense of humor.

7. On her 82nd birthday, Ono released two 10-inch vinyl singles featuring collaborations with singer Antony Hegarty and composer John Zorn. She and Hegarty recorded a new version of her original 1985 track, “I Love You, Earth,” showing that above all else, she still prizes two things, as she always has: love and peace.

“Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971” will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art from May 17 through September 7, 2015.

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