This news couldn’t have come at a better time, just weeks after 100,000 Londoners took to the streets for the Women’s March, it’s been announced that two of the most influential artists in recent history: Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama will exhibit together at Sotheby’s S|2 Gallery. The other major London art shows opening this month are looking decidedly male (David Hockney at Tate Britain, Wolfgang Tillmans at Tate Modern and Eduardo Paolozzi at Whitechapel Gallery) so it’s a welcome change of pace to see two big-league female artists in the same line-up.
With her record-breaking auction sales, Kusama is one of the most expensive living female artists, best known for her squat yellow pumpkin sculptures and obsessively-made infinite polka dot paintings. Kusama has been a voluntary in-patient at Seiwa Hospital for the mentally ill in Tokyo since 1977 and famously uses pattern and repetition to cope with her own hallucinations. Bourgeois, who passed away in 2010, used her towering arachnid sculptures to echo themes of motherhood and sexuality.
Throwing starkly different artists together on the basis of gender can be a regressive move, but the Sotheby’s show, titled 'Traumata: Bourgeois/Kusama' will focus on the autobiographical parallels in the women’s lives, and how each harnessed deeply personal and painful experiences as fuel for their art. Both had unfaithful fathers, resulting in a strained relationship with their mothers, both lived in New York during the hyper-macho art period of the 1950s and '60s, and both have dealt with the concept of exile in their work. The show will be a mix of sculpture, prints and works on paper, with lesser-known paintings from Kusama’s early exhibitions in Japan.
The ‘Traumata’ title might sound like a straight-to-DVD horror starring Patrick Wilson, but don’t let that scare you off. The most terrifying thing in the room will be the whopping price tags on the artwork.
'Traumata: Bourgeois/Kusama' opens at Sotheby's S|2 Gallery on 23 February and runs until April 14, find out more here.