Yayoi Kusama

Kusama Chair on World Tour; Sculpture by Donald Lipski on View in June

By Bridgette Beard, Communications Assistant

Kusama "Arm Chair" being prepared to be sent overseas.

Chris Ross, Assistant Preparator, makes final adjustments to the new handling device for Kusama's "Arm Chair" in our Sandra L. and Dennis B. Haslinger Family Foundation Galleries.

If you have been in the museum in the last couple weeks you might have missed something  in our Sandra L. and Dennis B. Haslinger Family Foundation Gallery. Where there was once two iconic chairs by Yayoi Kusama, there now is only one…for the time being. Akron Art Museum’s white Arm Chair has left the Akron Art Museum to become part of a world tour retrospective of Yayoi Kusama organized by the Tate Modern in London, England.


Born and raised in Japan, Yayoi Kusama came to New York in 1958 at age twenty-nine seeking greater artistic and personal freedom than was possible for a female avant-garde artist in her native country.  In the 1960s her fame rivaled that of Andy Warhol.

Kusama has fought a continuing battle against mental illness for many years; her art was the subject of psychiatric study as early as 1952.  She currently voluntarily resides in a mental institution. Some critics believe that her mental stresses result, at least in part, from her position as a female non-conformist in a male-dominated society, one that values consensus over individualism. This may also account for the long delay in her receiving recognition in her own country, though she is now considered to be Japan’s greatest living artist.


The use of repeated elements is a key element of Kusama’s intense art.  Arm Chair is smothered with phallic forms like metastasizing tumors, creating a visual manifestation of Kusama’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. Kusama transformed her phobia of men into the phallic protrusions as a way of freeing and neutralizing her obsession. She accentuates the psychological edge by choosing a domestic object often associated with femininity and security and invading it with aggressive male forms. Paradoxically, these uncontrollable phalluses have been created through sewing, a traditional female craft.

Arm Chair came to the Akron Art Museum as a gift from 1970. This is the first time it has left the museum except for conservation in the 1990s. The museum’s other Kusama work, Chair, with its silver protrusions, was gifted to the museum in 1998 and will remain on view in the Sandra L. and Dennis B. Haslinger Family Foundation Galleries. Untitled #64, a sculpture by Donald Lipski has been chosen to temporarily replace Arm Chair. You can see this sculpture on view in June, for the first time  since being accessioned by the museum in 2009.

YAYOI KUSAMA Exhibition Dates

Museo de la Reina Sofía
On view through September 18, 2011

Centre Pompidou
On view October 19, 2011 – January 9, 2012

Tate Modern
On view February 9, 2011 – June 5, 2012

Whitney Museum of American Art
On view
June 6 – September 28, 2012