Who is Yayoi Kusama, and Why should we know who she is?

When we think about famous artists, who do we think of? Probably Picasso, Leonardo Da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, etc. However, when we think of famous current artists, most people likely wouldn’t have any ideas. Unless someone is directly associated with the fine art world (usually only an artist themselves), people today are not as connected to traditional art as they have been in the past. Andy Warhol was a popular celebrity in his prime, but many people could pass by current artists on the street today and never know. It is no ones fault, and no one should feel bad because they don’t keep up with the contemporary ramblings of art critics–it is just a culture shift. With all of the commercial art constantly available on the internet, social media, and even on consumer products, why would we worry ourselves with art that is too expensive and requires much more effort to understand? I mean, after I discovered Buzzfeed articles, I probably haven’t read an actual book on my own in years.

    However, as an art history major, I do have a personal connection to the art world. I try my best to keep up with contemporary art, and I actually do follow snoody art critics and read what they have been publishing in the latest art magazines. I’m a little bit of an art dork, and that’s okay–it’s just my thing. The point of all of this is that there is, in my opinion, an amazing artist that I believe will one day be a household name, like Picasso and Van Gogh. This name is Yayoi Kusama.

    I recently was able to see one of her large traveling exhibits in Atlanta in December, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Kusama is a Japanese born artist who has created work in both the US and her home country of Japan. Being a Japanese woman in America, her work at the time was not taken as seriously as it deserved. She did have a following, but nothing to that of her white male contemporaries such as Andy Warhol. It is not until relatively recently that her work has become a worldwide phenomenon.



    Many have attributed the recent fame of her work to social media. The bright colors and repetitive patterns of her work make for great social media content, while simultaneously much of her work is unable to be truly experienced on a screen. Sometimes, art in a museum can feel like a bit of a waste, like when a painting of a landscape would look just as nice on your computer as in a museum 30 minutes away. However, Kusama’s work forces presence. She has created rooms filled with mirrors and patterns where the viewer walks in and is immersed in a unique world. Her paintings are often enormous, so the viewer must see them in person to be truly engulfed in the patterns. Although her work makes aesthetically pleasing backdrops for selfies and instagram boomerangs, they can only be accurately experienced in person. This is what makes her work so perfect for the age we live in.


    When creating her works, Yayoi Kusama did not know that we would be sharing her works on social media. Her works only intended to give the viewer a personal experience in a whole new world of twinkling lights, polka dots, and pumpkins. The social media posts that overflow the hashtag #yayoikusama are only a taste of what it’s like to experience the rising art of today.