The Myth of the Mad Artist: Works and Writings by Kusama Yayoi

  • Gunhild Borggreen Asian Research Centre


Kusama Yayoi has been active as an artist for more than 50 years, and is highly acclaimed both in her native Japan and in the United States, where she spent more than a decade of her career. A large corpus of critical reviews, catalogue texts, interviews and autobiographical writings by and about Kusama has been published over the years, and this paper investigates a specific topic in these texts concerning the discourse of madness. A persistent myth of Kusama as a'mad' artist emerged in the early and mid-1980s, but has influenced the interpretations of her whole oeuvre. Based on three texts written by Kusama, this paper shows that the artist herself did not describe her artistic processes in psychopatholocial terms at the early stages of her art production. I shall argue for more accurate interpretations of Kusama's art, based on the artist's own accounts as well as trends on the contemporary internatinoal art scene.