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Escapist fantasia: The meaning behind Yayoi Kusama’s dots

by Joyce Remo

A DECADE since their first collaboration, internationally renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is back to shake up Louis Vuitton with her signature dot mania for the French brand.

The revival of the luxury brand and the 93-year-old contemporary artist’s long-standing partnership was first teased during the Louis Vuitton Cruise 2023, where Kusama’s colorful dots were seen painted on monogram leather bags.

Then came Louis Vuitton’s official announcement regarding its new partnership with the internationally acclaimed artist.

Louis Vuitton and Kusama’s first groundbreaking collaboration happened in 2012 under the creative direction of Marc Jacobs. The collection featured the artist’s signature dots on LV bags including the Neverfull, Keepall, Speedy, and Papillion.

The two are teaming up again this year to bring color and a unique personality to bags and clothing created by Nicolas Ghesquière.

While the bags designed by Kusama have been highly sought after all over the world, the colorful dots represent something deeper and goes beyond whimsy. 

Photo courtesy: Louis Vuitton

Kusama’s art inspiration

Similar to many artists, Kusama’s art pieces were greatly influenced by her personal life and experiences. 

Unbeknownst to many, these artworks were reflections of the Japanese artist’s cruel history.

“My art originates from hallucinations only I can see. I translate the hallucinations and obsessional images that plague me into sculptures and paintings,” the artist said.

Kusama’s escapist fantasia

Kusama started painting during an early age but her disapproving and “extremely violent” mother, enraged by the mere fact that her daughter was painting, constantly destroyed her canvases and forced her to help their family business.

The artist shared over a fax interview in 1999 that her mother’s terrorizing acts were what triggered her hallucinations.

“She hated to see me painting, so she destroyed the canvases I was working on,” said Kusama in an interview with Bomb magazine. “I have been painting pictures since I was about ten years old when I first started seeing hallucinations.”

Photo courtesy: Louis Vuitton

Kusama also said that her art is an expression of her mental health illness. Prior to her admission into a mental facility in Tokyo in 1975, she was seeing a psychiatric professional to address her cognitive instability.

“Because my mother was so vehemently against my becoming an artist, I became emotionally unstable and suffered a nervous breakdown. It was around this time, or in my later teens, that I began to receive psychiatric treatment,” she said.

Translating hallucinations and fear of hallucinations into paintings was her way of trying to cure her disease, she said..

Chasing infinities 

After fleeing to Kyoto to escape her mother’s violence, Kusama began to pursue the arts. 

She started her artistic education in 1929 at the Kyoto School of Arts. However, Kusama said she rarely attended school as she found the institution too conservative for her liking.

“I rarely attended classes at the school there; I found the school too conservative and the instructors out of touch with the reality of the modern era,” she said.

She then moved to New York in 1958, as instructed by her doctor, Dr. Shiho Nishimaru, who said her neurosis would get worse if she stayed at home.

Inspired by American abstract expressionism, Kusama held several solo exhibitions and became prominent for her monochromatic Infinity Nets, which was said to be a manifestation of her obsessive-compulsive neuroses and her desire to quantify the infinities beyond the universe.

“My desire was to predict and measure the infinity of the unbounded universe, from my own position in it, with dots,” the artist said.

Photo courtesy: Louis Vuitton

Comments on LV x Kusama

Many praised the 10th year collaboration anniversary of Louis Vuitton and Kusama in their recently released polka dot collection.

According to Lifestyle Asia, the alliance formed by the maison and the artist implies the belief in the magic of the infinite and the sincere appreciation for the art.

“The collection itself achieves the near impossible – a timelessness that succeeds in transcending space, time and trends,” it added.

Some Twitter netizens also expressed their excitement about the collaboration as it presents daring and playful designs.

Banner courtesy: Louis Vuitton



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