American films

Kusama – Infinity film review: prominent Japanese artist profiled in intellectually absorbing documentary

Fear of sex, suicidal tendencies that manifested in her life, and her memories of the second world war figure prominently in this intellectually absorbing film that portrays the unique vision of the world’s most expensive female artist

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 October, 2018, 7:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 October, 2018, 7:00am

4/5 stars

This documentary about Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is much more than a standard biopic. It probes deep into Kusama’s psyche to explore what motivates her to make art – a fear of sex, the suicidal tendencies that manifest themselves in her life, and her memories of the second world war figure prominently.

The Hong Kong art dealer and a missing US$1.4 million Yayoi Kusama pumpkin

But Kusama: Infinity is no gloom-fest as, paradoxically, Kusama and her colourful work sparkle with life, and the enthusiastic reaction she elicits from the public, curators and art critics proves enlivening. Some expert opinions by the likes of Guggenheim curator Alexandra Munroe, along with lovingly shot footage of Kusama’s artworks, all add up to an intellectually absorbing film that is beautiful to watch.

Kusama is now the world’s most expensive female artist, and Heather Lenz’s documentary shows how hard work and determination, along with her unique vision, got her to that position. Kusama was born in Japan in 1929 and wanted to be an artist from her early years. Such ambitions were frowned upon in Japan for women; her mother would rip the paper out of her hands.

She managed to relocate to New York in the 1960s, where she became known for her mirrored artworks and – always an excellent self-publicist – her nude “happenings”. She moved back to Japan in the 1970s and started her career from scratch, making it big on the world stage in the first decade of the new millennium.

Along with her mirrored art, Kusama is known for large-scale works which feature dots, which she says are distillations of the energy flying around the universe. It’s an uplifting artistic vision that Lenz’s film captures perfectly.

Kusama – Infinity opens on October 4

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