Yayoi Kusama is having one busy year. Her major retrospective at the Tate closes June 5th and will travel to the Whitney. Then there’s her collaboration with Louis Vuitton, which was announced just this week. Everything is on the up-and-up for the 83-year-old artist, assuming she doesn’t care about the amount of recent press devoted to her craziness. With Kusama’s exhibitions and fashion line, more people are coming out of the woodwork to discuss her notoriety as a kook—which includes living in a psychiatric ward across the street from her studio.
Earlier this year, ARTINFO wrote about Kusama’s life in a mental institution, but since then, there’s been a torrent of new public admissions about the artist’s dottiness. Marc Jacobs, in a YouTube advert for Louis Vuitton, mentioned that Kusama is “special” and “charming”; in a meeting with Jacobs, she showed him a Vuitton Ellipse handbag (pricetag $1,470) that she’d covered in hand-painted dots. Artist Steven Heller, too, has revelled in Kusama’s battiness, writing in The Atlantic that even in the 1960s, he “initially mistook [her] as simply crazy.” The Tate has been participating in this saga by screening KUSAMA: Princess of Polka Dots, a new documentary which shows Kusama in a red wig and full-on dot garb.
We expect to see more anecdotes in the months leading up to Kusama’s opening at the Whitney. And all this focus on Kusama’s personal life is bound to bring on two camps of opinion: those who think her craziness is evidence of her genius, and those who think it debases her art into something pithless. Count us in the latter camp. Sure, we may want some mystery, or magic, from art, but we don’t expect or need it from the artist.