South America Goes Dotty for Kusama

Millions have been seduced by the artist’s “universal appeal.”

Yayoi Kusama Photo via: Jamille Sodré
Yayoi Kusama. Photo via: Jamille Sodré

Almost two million people have flocked to see Yayoi Kusama’s touring exhibition “Infinite Obsession,” the final leg of which opens at the Museum Tamayo in Mexico City today.

Inaugurated at Buenos Aires’ MALBA-Fundación Costantini last June, the show has already stopped at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil in Rio—where it attracted a staggering 754,565 visitors—at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil in Brasilia, and at the Instituto Tomie Ohtake in São Paulo.

“Infinite Obsession” is curated by Philip Larratt-Smith, together with Tate’s head of collections Frances Morris. It gathers over 100 pieces from the Japanese artist’s prolific career, with a particular focus on her early works and her recent series of paintings “My Eternal Soul.”

The idea of a South American tour followed the success of Kusama’s 2012 Tate Modern retrospective, also co-curated by Morris, which attracted 186,551 people. It wasn’t the first time the artist pulled in such big crowds. It seems that audience numbers spike everywhere she goes.

“Sometimes museums are not really prepared for the onslaught of interest,” Glenn Scott-Wright, co-director at Victoria Miro Gallery in London, told artnet News. “The vocabulary is very universal,” he added, attempting to explain her immense popularity. “It can speak to everyone.”

The most Instagrammed show ever is heading south!

The daughter of upper middle class Matsumoto seed merchants, Kusama is perhaps best known for her compulsive use of dots. She first came to prominence in New York in the 1960s, where she was associated with the emerging Pop art scene, showing alongside the likes of Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. She has since then developed a highly idiosyncratic body of work, bridging performance, minimal and pop art, as well as immersive installations.

“She’s very unusual in that she has this kind of credibility within the art world establishment, but she also has a very broad popular appeal,” continued Scott-Wright. “People who know nothing about art can wander into an exhibition and be delighted by her work.”

The artist is also currently exhibiting at Miro’s East End locale, where she shows a new body of paintings and mosaic works dedicated to one of her signature motifs, the pumpkin.

“In market terms, she’s the only artist that we sell in every continent,” Scott-Wright noted. “We sell her work in the obvious markets for a gallery like ours, which are Western Europe and North America. We sell her in Latin America, in Africa, in Asia, in Australia. We get inquiries for her work across the entire planet.”

According to artnet News, Kusama is the third most expensive living female artist at auction (“Who Are the Top 10 Most Expensive Living Women Artists?”).


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