February 15 – May 11, 2003
Art Sonje Center
On the heels of “Fancy Dance: Japanese Contemporary Art” (1999) and “Tatsuo Miyajima” (2002), Art Sonje is preparing the exhibition “Yayoi Kusama” for 2003. This exhibition is part of what could be called the “Kusama Tsunami” that has been unfurling on major European museums since 2000, beginning with the Consortium in Dijon, France, and followed by the Japanese Cultural Center in Paris, the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, and the Kunsthallen Brandts Klaedefabrik, in Odense, Denmark. The success of the traveling exhibition “Yayoi Kusama,” which has attracted the largest audiences in the history of each of these institutions, suggests that both art professionals and amateurs are ready for some fun and relief from their normal fare of difficult exhibitions. Art Sonje wholeheartedly believes that the exhibition “Yayoi Kusama” will be a success and a turning point in the recent and ongoing exchanges in contemporary art between Korea and Japan.
Yayoi Kusama, Asian Pioneer in Contemporary Art
Born in Nagano, Japan, in 1929, Kusama began her career in New York, in 1958. Since the nineteen-sixties, her presence on the New York art scene alongside the likes of Nam June Paik has had an important influence on the history of contemporary art. She has said that in her work she tries to free herself from social conventions. Indeed, she was first noticed for her anti-Vietnam War happening “Love Forever,” (1958-68). Another important moment in her artistic development came when she collaborated with the minimalist artist Donald Judd. From this moment on, she became an important avant-garde artist, doing pop and minimalist art, and happenings with AndyWarhol, Frank Stella, and Allan Kaprow. During this same period, she began to create works with polka dots, commenting that “my life is a dot that has lost its way in the midst of hundreds of thousands of other dots.” At the same time, she created happenings that expressed social and political issues. In 1973 her obsession problem, which she had had since childhood, worsened, so she returned to Tokyo to be treated in a psychiatric hospital. Since then, in Kusama’s art world there are “obsession problem” — infinitely multiplied polka dots or intertwined networks of lines. In their repetition and multiplication, these visual motifs strip away composition, have neither beginning nor end, and extend into infinite space. One of her work’s original qualities is to sublimate symptoms of illness into pleasure and joy, and to present us with a Kusama World that is unique and gay.
Kusama’s wonderland, an invitation to a world of dream and fantasy The exhibition at Art Sonje will be composed of ten installation works, including the artist’s labyrinthine “Infinity Mirror Room,” composed of hundreds of mirrors and reflected light bulbs that invite us into an infinite space, “Fireflies on the Water,” “Dots Obsession, New Century,” a room filled with big, multicolored balloons and polka-dot stickers, and “Narcissus Garden,” where fifteen hundred silver-colored balloons will cover the museum garden. These works will begin in the entry of the art center and the garden, and continue into the exhibition spaces, creating a fantastic and dreamlike environment much like Kusama’s “Wonderland.” The artist transforms her schizophrenic symptoms, which form the basis of her work, into a joie de vivre through art that extends into an infinite and fantastic dream world, all the more affecting because the artist is now seventy-three years old. Kusama especially created these works in her studio for the European traveling show. Art Sonje will present them for the first time in Asia. After its triumphant two-year European tour, Art Sonje is proud to present Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition beginning in February 2003, first in Seoul, then at the Sonje Museum in Gyeongju, in June. The exhibition promises to be like a joyous festival, not only for the art world, but for the general public.