Today, Yayoi Kusama is an art-world superstar, with museum-goers around the world lining up for hours for the chance to take photographs of—and with—her mirrored Infinity Rooms and polka-dotted pumpkins. And yet, the Japanese artist has lived in a mental hospital since the 1970s, suggesting an unseen dark side to her colorful universe. As a new documentary reveals, the road to success was a long and winding one that tested the artist’s drive, resiliency, and, ultimately, her sanity.
American interest in Asian art is at an all-time high after Yayoi Kusama’s hit ‘Infinity Mirrors’ exhibition. Guggenheim Museum Senior Curator Alexandra Munroe explores the diverse world of Asian Art in her video series ‘Eyes on Fire.’
Even if you’re not a major art buff, you’ve probably heard of Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist and social activist who will be speaking with Time magazine editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal Wednesday night at Aspen’s Isis Theatre, following a free 5:30 p.m. showing of his 2017 documentary film “Human Flow.” He’s one of the rare artists whose fame transcends his work, landing him squarely in the realm of global celebrity.
A vocal critic of the Chinese government, Ai has achieved international recognition as much for his political happenings – including a 2011 arrest in Beijing and 81-day jail stay for alleged economic crimes – as his major works, which include the famous “Bird’s Nest,” the Beijing National Stadium where the 2008 Olympics opening ceremonies were held.
Currently a resident of Berlin, Germany, and having lived in the U.S. from 1981-1993, Ai finds himself in an enviable position from which to juxtapose various belief systems, be they political, social or artistic. Informed by this viewpoint and spread across a wide variety of media, much of Ai’s work – giant stadiums aside – seeks to expose society’s ills, investigate wrongdoing and inspire positive steps.
When his passport was returned after years of arrests, detentions, harassment and surveillance in China, the first places Ai Weiwei went were at the chaotic crossroads of the global refugee crisis.
The artist and activist has spent the last several years with migrants, trying to tell their stories and to mobilize the world to help them. Ai believes in art’s ability to shape the world and change the tide of history.
“If art can change how man sees his relationship with society, then it does change society,” the Chinese dissident said in a recent email interview.
This week, Ai will speak in Aspen and Snowmass Village about his work as an artist, filmmaker and refugee advocate as Anderson Ranch honors him with its International Artist Award.