Bourgeois and Kusama at London’s S|2 Gallery

Kusama, The Castle, 1954.jpg

This February Sotheby’s S|2 Gallery will stage London’s first joint exhibition focused on the work of Louise Bourgeois (1911– 2010) and Yayoi Kusama (born 1929).

Traumata: Bourgeois/Kusama will bring together thought-provoking examples from private collections and art foundations to reveal how this pair of artists accessed their own psychological traumas to blaze a trail for female artistic expression.

Bourgeois, Spider, 1994.jpgAccessing emotion

Japan-born Kusama, best known for her densely patterned polka-dot paintings and mirrored installations, has seen huge popularity in her work in recent years.

Bourgeois, famed for creating intense autobiographical works exploring sexuality, motherhood and her own psychology, is credited with inspiring and empowering a wave of contemporary female artists.

‘Art is restoration,’ was Bourgeois’ opinion, ‘the idea is to repair the damages that are inflicted in life.’

Throughout her career, Bourgeois created art that was influenced by the emotions she felt on discovering her domineering father’s was having an affair with her live-in tutor – while her mother turned a blind eye.

Kusama, Untitled, 1953.jpgA womanising narcissist

Kusama also creates work heavily shaped by childhood experience.

Her mother was contemptuous of her father, who was himself a womanizer and narcissist, and was violently opposed to Kusama’s wish to become an artist. All of these factors helped fuel her obsessive-compulsive work.

‘By translating hallucinations and fear of hallucinations into paintings,’ said Kusama, ‘I have been trying to cure my disease.’

Traumata will bring together sculptures, paintings, prints and works on paper that explore the intense psychological states that comprise Bourgeois and Kusama’s careers.

Organised around four main themes, ‘Good Mother/Bad Mother’, ‘Exile/Dislocation’, ‘Sexuality/War’ and ‘Memory/Melancholia’, the exhibition will span the entirety of the artists’ careers, from rarely seen paintings created by Kusama for her first exhibitions in Japan, to now-iconic sculptures, such as Louise Bourgeois’ Spider.

Traumata opens on 23 February.


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