KUSAMA: Princess of Polka Dots is a feature documentary work-in-progress about Yayoi Kusama. The film explores Kusama's fierce determination to become a world-renowned artist. Kusama was born into a conservative family in rural Japan the same year as the infamous stock market crash, 1929. While her peers pursued more conventional paths, and became wives and mothers, Kusama made her way to America on the heels of WWII, and there, without connections and speaking only broken English, she devoted herself to her one true love, making art. On her first day in New York, Kusama has stated that she climbed to the top of the Empire State Building, looked down upon the city below, and made a decision to stand out from everyone she saw below and become a star. Eighteen months after arriving in New York she had her first solo exhibition featuring an innovative series of a dazzling white on white paintings that were the result of painstaking physical labor. The canvases received rave reviews but Kusama was a trailblazer who was not content to simply make more of the same; instead, she pressed forward and created highly original works in the form of sculpture, installation art, film, and Happenings performed on the streets of New York City. In the 1960s Kusama briefly rivaled pop legend Andy Warhol for press attention. However, some of Kusama’s more progressive works of art did not result in objects that could be sold to sustain her existence in the US. She also faced sexism and racism which were obstacles in her efforts to gain gallery support, and she was haunted by a tough childhood with a strict mother, parents who continually argued, and acute stress brought on by working in a factory that was a military target during WWII. Eventually she succumbed to mental illness and returned to Japan after spending 15 years living abroad. In the mid 1970s she checked herself into the mental institution she has called home for more than 30 years. There, she continued to work diligently, making art and writing semi-autobiographical novels, initially in relative obscurity. Over time, her contributions to the American art world faded from memory. Then, in 1989 a young curator in New York organized a small retrospective of Kusama’s work that changed her fate. Soon afterward, Kusama was picked up by a prominent US gallery and even more significantly, she became the first woman to represent Japan in the prestigious Venice Biennale. Since then, her career has soared. In 2006 she received one of the world’s most prestigious art prizes, the Praemium Imperiale Laureate for lifetime achievement in painting. In 2008 her work broke an auction record at Christies for a living female artist. In 2011-2012 Kusama was the subject of a retrospective organized by the Tate Modern Museum. In 2012 Louis Vuitton launched a fashion line made in collaboration with Kusama. Now in her 80s, Kusama has stated, “Time is finally turning a kind eye on me but it barely matters for I am dashing into the future.”
Tax-deductible donations of any amount are greatly appreciated and will help us finish this film. For more information please click on the blue dot on the upper right hand side of our website or contact the filmmakers directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading and for your interest in our film!
©Tokyo Lee Productions, Inc., 2007-2013