Yayoi Kusama on 2020: ‘O demons of unwonted fate. We will stand and face you’

New publication—described as “most personal book to date”—will focus on artist’s use of language

Yayoi Kusama © Yayoi Kusama; courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner

Yayoi Kusama © Yayoi Kusama; courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner

The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has issued a message reflecting on the past year, lamenting the “unwonted ordeal that has come upon us” in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. The message marks the launch of a new group show at David Zwirner gallery in New York (537 West 20th Street) called 20/20 (until 19 December), which reflects on the tumultuous events of the past few months against the backdrop of Covid-19. She issued a message earlier this year that was described as a poem of hope for the world.  

All of the works in 20/20—by artists such as Kerry James Marshall, Dana Schutz and Chris Ofili—were made this year. Kusama’s contribution of four paintings form part of her ongoing series of My Eternal Soul paintings, begun in 2009. “Vibrant, animated, and intense, [these compositions] explore line and form and are at once abstract and figurative,” according to a gallery statement. Her accompanying text piece is below:

I find it so lamentable, The alarming, unwonted ordeal that has come upon us. O demons of unwonted fate. We will stand and face you. We will stand and face you. Through my art I go on manifesting, with all my heart, my reverence and love for the cosmos, the world, and all humanity. Our aspiration for a resplendent future begins with this. Our resplendent hope is sure to be fulfilled.

Yayoi Kusama's My Love, Sprout Endlessly (2020) Photo: © David Zwirner

David Zwirner is also due to publish “the artist’s most personal book to date” next month, focussing on “the essential role language plays in her paintings, sculptures and daily life”, says the gallery statement. The new publication, Yayoi Kusama: Every Day I Pray for Love: Art and Collected Poetry, comprises 300 pages featuring paintings, sculptures and a selection of her celebrated Infinity Mirrored Rooms. The book also features several of Kusama's poems, aincluding the following:

I want to eat cherry blossoms.

I want to kiss their pink colours.

Their scent that would have reached the universe dissipated in my youth.

Remembering that, now tears roll down from my eyes.

Scattering cherry blossom petals on the path of my faint love,

I will be facing death someday.

When that day arrives,

with all the love that I have had in my past, I will enwrap life.

On that moment, the flower path of cherry blossoms will envelop the whole

of me without fail.

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms.

They explore my life and death.

Dear cherry blossoms, I thank you.