August 15, 2012
Attack of the Polka Dots at Louis Vuitton!
Goodbye, Dot.com culture; Hello, Dot Culture: The Polka Dot Queen Invades NYC
By Nancy Staab
Louis Vuitton and The Whitney Museum of American Art Go Dotty for Avant-Garde Japanese Artist Yayoi Kusama on the occasion of her retrospective U.S. exhibit
Polka Dots are typically colorful, cheerful, abstract, obsessive, child-like in their innocence and infinite in terms of their circular shape…And these circular shapes are invading NYC—crawling up the exterior of Louis Vuitton’s pop-up shop in SoHo like Kudzu, infiltrating the pristine white cubes of The Whitney Museum of American Art, and sprawling over Louis Vuitton’s capsule collection of sunglasses, trenches, dresses, silk PJ’s, jewelry, bags, leather goods and even a perfume called Dot. What gives? The triumphant return of 1960’s Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama to the city in which she first made her name as a conceptual artist.
While Any Warhol was silk-screening in his Factory and Roy Lichtenstein was creating his (also-dot-obsessed) comic book matrixes, the avant-garde Kusama was hosting “happenings” in which she painted nude participants in polka dots and gallivanted about town in pom-pom dresses. Fascinated by biology and still prolific in her eighth decade, Kusama has also produced obsessive paintings sculptures, and even furniture representing nerves or tentacle-like protuberances, flowers, pumpkins and gourds. But the cheerfully mad-cap polka-dot, repeated ad infinitum, remains her trademark.
Needless to say, all this obsessiveness can lead a person to go a little dotty and when Kusama’s art notoriety flamed out in NYC she returned to Tokyo in the 1970’s and checked into a mental institution, where she has lived and worked every since. But at age 83, her work is enjoying a new resurgence in the U.S. thanks to a major retrospective launched by the Whitney Museum this July and sponsored by Louis Vuitton fashion house. On display at the Whitney: everything from painting, sculpture and photography to installation pieces and video. Most enchanting is an installation piece entitled “Fireflies on Water,” consisting of mirrors, water and twinkling lights, that can only be experienced one person at a time.
Louis Vuitton artistic director Marc Jacobs, who is famous for tapping Zeitgeist-y artists for fashion collaborations like graffiti artist Stephen Sprouse and pop artist Takashi Murakami, eagerly latched onto Kusama for a capsule LV collection of dot-centric goods, smartly translating art into consumerism. “The obsessive character and the innocence of her artwork touch me,” says Jacobs. And no doubt Kusama’s whimsical, hallucinogenic, colorful, polka-dot art and fashions will be well-received in an anxious period in need of a little fizzy, happy, flamboyant dose of Pop.
Kusama’s work will be on exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art through Sept. 30, 2012, whitney.org .
Kusama’s capsule collection for Louis Vuitton will be available at Louis Vuitton worldwide and international pop-up shops in NY, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Paris and London beginning in July, with a new wave of products featuring tentacles instead of dots, coming in October, www.louisvuitton.com
ONE-MINUTE VIDEO OF YAYOI KUSAMA AND HER NYC LOUIS VUITTON STORE WINDOWS BELOW:
SEE SLIDESHOW OF YAYOI KUSAMA’S ART AND HER FASHIONS AT LOUIS VUITTON BELOW.