5 Fascinating Facts About Yayoi Kusama's Life and Art
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 5 min read


  1. Kusama's Love for Polka Dots
  2. Voluntary Residence in a Mental Hospital
  3. Infinity Mirrored Rooms
  4. Kusama's 'Self-Obliteration' Concept
  5. World Record for Highest Auction Price for a Living Female Artist

Renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has captured the world's imagination with her unique style and daring concepts. Her life and art are filled with intriguing stories, some of which we will touch upon in this blog. Here are five fascinating facts about Yayoi Kusama's life and art that might surprise you.

Kusama's Love for Polka Dots

Yayoi Kusama's obsession with polka dots is a well-known fact for fans and art enthusiasts. This signature style of hers is not merely an artistic choice, but a reflection of her mental state and personal experiences.

Childhood Influence

Yayoi Kusama was born in Matsumoto, Japan, in a family of seedling nursery owners. As a child, she was surrounded by a sea of plants and flowers, the patterns of which she says, influenced her artistic style. The polka dots in her work are reminiscent of these patterns — a nod to her past.

The Polka Dot Revolution

Yayoi Kusama didn't just incorporate polka dots into her art, she started a 'Polka Dot Revolution'. Kusama used polka dots to cover objects, rooms, and even people, to express her concept of 'self-obliteration'. She aimed to dissolve the boundary between the self and the external world — a radical idea expressed through simple dots.

Polka Dots: A Visual Hallucination

Did you know Yayoi Kusama experiences visual hallucinations? The world around her often transforms into a field of polka dots. She has openly shared that these visions heavily influence her work. Kusama's polka dot art is, in fact, her way of processing these experiences and sharing them with the world.

From the seed fields of her childhood to the canvas of her art, Yayoi Kusama has made polka dots an iconic part of her identity. They're not just a pattern; they're a symbol, a philosophy, and a window into the mind of a truly extraordinary artist.

Voluntary Residence in a Mental Hospital

While Yayoi Kusama's art has brought her international fame, her personal life is equally as captivating. Her voluntary residence in a mental hospital is a testament to her unconventional life path.

Choice to Stay

In 1977, Yayoi Kusama checked herself into a mental hospital in Tokyo, where she has lived by choice ever since. While for many this might seem an unusual decision, for Kusama, it was a practical one. She found the stability and routine of the hospital conducive to her mental well-being.

Art Studio: A Stone's Throw Away

Art continued to play a central role in Kusama's life, even while living in the hospital. She set up her art studio just across the street. Every day, she crosses over to her studio to create art, and returns to the hospital in the evening. Her dedication to her craft, undeterred by her living circumstances, speaks volumes about her passion and commitment.

Art as Therapy

Kusama has often quoted art as her form of therapy. Her repetitive patterns and bold colors are not just a visual treat, but a therapeutic process for her. Her art acts as a way to express her thoughts and fears, providing her with a sense of relief and satisfaction.

Yayoi Kusama's voluntary residence in a mental hospital is a facet of her life that intertwines deeply with her art. It offers a glimpse into her resilience, her unwavering commitment to art, and her ability to create beauty from her unique perspective of the world.

Infinity Mirrored Rooms

One of the most iconic aspects of Yayoi Kusama's work is her Infinity Mirrored Rooms. These immersive installations have captured the imaginations of audiences worldwide.

What are They?

The Infinity Mirrored Rooms are a unique art installation series by Kusama. Each room is a mirror-lined chamber filled with a dazzling array of lights and colors that seem to stretch into infinity. When you step into one, you're enveloped by a mesmerizing, seemingly endless universe of reflections.

The First Room

The first Infinity Mirrored Room, "Phalli's Field," was created by Kusama in 1965. She filled the room with hundreds of red-spotted, phallic forms, and then lined the room with mirrors. This made the phallic forms appear to multiply infinitely, creating a surreal, disorienting experience that became the hallmark of her future Infinity Mirrored Rooms.

Creating Unique Experiences

Each Infinity Mirrored Room is a unique experience. Some rooms are filled with shimmering golden lanterns, others with glowing pumpkins, and yet others with twinkling LED lights. The common thread is the sense of infinite space and the immersive experience that Kusama creates.

The Infinity Mirrored Rooms have become a significant part of Kusama's artistic legacy. They reflect her fascination with infinite expansion and the limitless universe—concepts that have shaped much of her art.

Kusama's 'Self-Obliteration' Concept

Yayoi Kusama's work often explores the theme of 'self-obliteration'. This concept, as unique and intriguing as it sounds, has been a running thread in her art across the decades.

Understanding 'Self-Obliteration'

So, what is 'self-obliteration'? In Kusama's world, it's the idea of losing oneself in the infinite, of becoming one with the universe. It's about dissolving the boundaries between oneself and the external world. And it's about the transformative power of art.

How It Manifests in Her Work

The concept of self-obliteration is evident in many of Kusama's art pieces. Take her Infinity Mirrored Rooms, for example. They encompass viewers in an endless landscape of light and color, creating a sense of losing oneself in the infinite. Her signature polka dots can be seen as a symbol of this concept too —a single dot among many, losing its individual identity to become part of a larger whole.

Kusama and 'Self-Obliteration'

For Kusama, self-obliteration is not just an artistic concept; it's a personal philosophy. She has often spoken about her experiences with mental health and how her art has been a way for her to navigate and express her feelings. In essence, her art allows her to lose herself —to obliterate herself— and find solace in the infinite.

Through 'self-obliteration', Kusama invites us to embrace the infinite, to lose ourselves in the beauty and complexity of the universe, and perhaps in doing so, find a bit of peace.

World Record for Highest Auction Price for a Living Female Artist

Yayoi Kusama is not just renowned for her remarkable concepts and vivid artistry, but she's also made quite the splash in the world of art auctions. Believe it or not, she holds the world record for the highest auction price for a living female artist.

Breaking Records

So, how did Kusama earn this title? It all happened back in 2014 when one of her pieces, a stunning painting from her "Infinity Net" series, sold for a whopping $7.1 million at an auction in New York. Just like that, she shattered the previous record, securing her place in art history.

The Piece That Did It

You might be wondering what's so special about the piece that set this record. Titled "White No. 28", this painting is a prime example of Kusama's 'Infinity Nets' series. It features a captivating pattern of tightly interlaced semi-circular brushstrokes, creating a hypnotic, net-like effect.

More than Just a Price Tag

While the record-breaking price tag is certainly impressive, it's important to remember what it represents. This isn't just about money; it's a recognition of Kusama's talent, her unique vision, and the impact she's had on the art world. It's a testament to the power of her art to touch people and inspire awe.

So, next time you see a Yayoi Kusama piece, remember —you're not just looking at a work of art; you're looking at a piece of history.

If you're inspired by Yayoi Kusama's incredible journey and want to explore your own path as an artist, consider checking out the workshop 'Navigating A Career As A Self-Taught Artist' by Maayan Sophia Weisstub. This workshop will provide you with valuable insights and advice on how to carve out your unique artistic career, even if you're not formally trained. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from an experienced self-taught artist and start building your own creative journey!