Last night, Manhattan’s Pop Art enthusiasts gathered at the Lower East Side’s Metrograph theater for an intimate, advance screening of Kusama Infinity, a new Yayoi Kusama documentary released today in theaters with an accompanying book from David Zwirner. Directed by Heather Lenz, with support for the screening from David Zwirner, Artsy, and Shishiedo Makeup, the film tells 89-year-old Kusama’s story through interviews with art historians and photographs of her work, interspersed with narration by Kusama herself.
The softly lit theater smelled like buttered popcorn and Le Labo’s Santal 33. Kusama didn’t attend the screening, but while guests found their seats, a still of the artist wearing her signature red wig waited on the screen. The documentary begins with Kusama’s early life in Japan, where her family refused to support her artwork, and follows her solo voyage to New York City in 1957. (She decided to move after writing to Georgia O’Keeffe for advice.)
The audience chuckled as Kusama spoke unabashedly of her parents’ dismay when she turned down numerous marriage proposals in Japan, vowing instead to become a successful artist. Later, audible gasps punctuated her telling of the pain and frustration she felt as prolific male artists in the ’60s attended her New York gallery exhibitions, only to copy her work and receive critical acclaim.
Kusama is now one of the most successful living artists. More than 5 million people have seen her exhibitions internationally since 2013, and her colorful artwork is a viral sensation on Instagram. Kusama Infinity is out in theaters today and can be seen at Film Forum in New York City as well as in most major cities. The book Yayoi Kusama: Festival of Life documents the artist’s 2017 exhibition at David Zwirner’s Chelsea location and is available for preorder to ship on September 25.