Acclaimed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, whose “Infinite Mirror Rooms” brought lines around the building for one massive exhibition after another, has apologized for racist comments in her 2002 autobiography that have drawn renewed attention. Opened her new show At the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
“I deeply regret using hurtful and insulting language in my book,” Kusama, 94, said. He said in a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle last week. “My message has always been one of love, hope, compassion and respect for all people. It has been my intention my whole life to uplift humanity through my art. I apologize for the pain I have caused.”
Kusama’s apology, which came the day before her show, “Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love,” opened at the museum, refers to passages from her 2002 autobiography, “Infinity Net,” in which she described black people as “primitive and hypersexual.” “Objects.”
In the book’s original Japanese edition, Kusama also described her New York neighborhood as a “slum” where “real estate prices are falling by $5 a day” due to “black people shooting each other outside, and homeless people sleeping there.” These sentences were removed from a later English translation.
Kusama, who was born in 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan, began drawing because of hallucinations she experienced as a young girl. She spoke openly about her struggles with her psychological condition, but she continues to paint.
The controversy surrounding Kusama’s comments is the latest example of an institution having to grapple with the problematic personal history of a prominent arts figure. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was forced to take into account what staff described as structural inequalities around race.
Gary Jarrells, the gallery’s longest-serving curator, resigned in 2020 shortly after one publication quoted him as saying: “Don’t worry, we will definitely continue to collect white artists.” Its former director, Neil Benezra, He apologized to the staff After removing critical comments from an Instagram post following the killing of George Floyd.
In a phone interview Tuesday, the museum’s current director, Christopher Bedford, said he welcomed the opportunity “to be very frank about the museum’s relationship with anti-racism” and to “think about how to present a difficult topic with nuance.”
Bedford said the museum was already planning to hold a symposium next spring “on the question of biography and its relationship to creativity and how we as a culture can reconcile the two when they are in opposition.” The long-term goal is to develop interpretive materials for the public “about these difficult relationships between maker and objects,” he said.
As for Kusama, Bedford said, “I think it’s really extraordinary that a woman in her 10s on the face of the Earth, who was creating an incredible body of work and who had been marginalized and discriminated against herself, would come out and apologize in such an unconditional way for what happened.” Racist statements.
He added: “What we are tasked with is collecting, displaying and interpreting artists in all their complexity.” “Like everyone else, they are flawed. The deep effort is not to delete, edit, or cancel people; the effort is to fully and truly account for them.”