Yayoi Kusama ‘the most popular artist in the world’

Yayoi Kusama is the most popular artist in the world today, according to a new survey on museum attendance by the Art Newspaper. It reported that the Japanese artist had the biggest selling exhibition of 2014, with approximately two million people visiting her show Infinite Obsession during its tour of South and Central America.
You can get a taste for how impressive this figure is by breaking it down. On a daily basis, up 9,000 people were experiencing this seminal display, which was comprised of over 100 works created between 1950 and 2013.
The 86-year-old artist, colourful in life as she is through her work, was described by the London-based gallery Victoria Miro, which represents her in the UK, as a “phenomenon”.
Speaking to the Independent, its co-director Glenn Scott Wright, said: “Kusama is the only one of our artists who sells on every continent. She is very rare in that she has this kind of credibility within the art world establishment, but she also has a very broad popular appeal.
She has had one of the most interesting careers to date. Rising to fame in New York during the sixties – she moved to the US in 1957 – Kusama’s simple yet powerful polka dot works – she referred to them as “infinity nests” – were representative of highly lucid and fantastical dreams she had.
On leaving the States and heading back home to Tokyo, she was soon forgotten, with her contemporaries – such as Andy Warhol – gaining favour in the art world. In 1977, she voluntarily checked herself into a mental institution, where she has lived ever since. Her passion for art has, despite her battle with mental illness, remained as productive as ever.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Kusama described art as “her calling”, a vocation that she has been preoccupied with since the age of ten. It’s something she admits has come with a cost – she has had to work terribly hard to make true her destiny.
“I’ve struggled and devoted all my energy to artistic creativity and its excellence with a feeling of awe,” she said. “I fight to find love and a mystery of human life … I’ve sought for truth of art with an ambition and fought like hell all my life to accomplish my purpose as a human being.
“Even after I finish my life, I’d like to keep telling posterity about my way of art. I want younger people, or everyone, to talk about my enthusiasm reaching to space and also, my art as a token of my life even after my death. For that reason, I worked all this morning. I’d like to keep creating art until the day I die.”
The Art Newspaper’s annual survey also revealed that the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, organised the “top three best attended exhibitions” of 2014; and the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil “continues to stage the best attended non-charging shows”. The simply titled Salvador Dali, which is on show in its Rio de Janeiro branch, achieves nearly 10,000 visitors a day.
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