​why yayoi kusama is the most popular artist in the world

Hint: it has nothing to do with race or gender.

by Tish Weinstock
08 April 2015, 1:40pm

It was recently announced that out of all the artists in the world, Yayoi Kusama is the most popular. An avalanche of think pieces and news alerts on the rise of female artists followed, especially if they weren't Western. Ding, dong the wicked white male artist is dead, they said. Which is kind of, if not completely, missing the point, and we're not the only one who thinks so.

Within minutes of these posts, below-the-line comment sections were ablaze with people accusing these articles of sexism and racism, the very things they set out to undermine. And they were right to do so. By lumping Kusama with all the other non-western, non-male artists it only serves to reinforce the perceived inferiority and otherness of such a category. It also takes away from Kusama as an individual. And anyway, this is about popularity, not how much airtime the predominantly white male art world has afforded her. This survey was based on museum attendance of the general public across the world. 

Yayoi Kusama is, indeed, the most popular artist in the world and here are the reasons why we think she's great:

1. Her unique dot-patterned works are so iconic that over than 2 million visitors from all over the world travelled to see the Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Obsessions exhibition.

2. She's also been making art for over 70 years, which is a pretty long time to build up such a substantial fan club.

3. Her work spans over a multiplicity of media from painting to drawing, collage to sculpture, performance to film, print making to installation, and she's even ventured into literature, ensuring there is something for everyone.

4. Far from restricting herself to the most popular art capitals of the world, Kusama's exhibition itself traveled to a wealth of different countries and cities, including Brazil, São Paulo, and Mexico, where the Museo Tamayo was forced to stay open for 36 hours straight while fans lined up overnight just to see it.

5. Thanks to her successful collaborations with Louis Vuitton, which lit up store windows the world over and was also featured in the 2007 Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton documentary, Kusama's appeal goes far beyond the art world.

Got another reason to add? Post it in the comment section below.

Yayoi Kusama