With endorsements from Andy Warhol and Donald Judd, Japanese painter, sculptor, and writer Yayoi Kusama made a name for herself in the New York art scene in the 1960s. Art critics were drawn to the psychedelia of her early work, with her counter-culture staging of “Grand Orgy to Awaken the Dead” at the Museum of Modern Art where she and a handful of nude performers adorned the fountain of the museum’s sculpture garden. But the obsessions that gave birth to Kusama’s aesthetic—her iconic polka dot pattern, which communicates her vision of life as “a dot lost among millions of other dots”—compelled her return to Japan and commitment to life in a mental institution. There, she continues creating works through the course of therapy and of late has been showing and collaborating with cross-disciplinary artists and brands. Most recently, she collaborated with luxury brand Louis Vuitton, which resulted in an exclusive collection of shoes, accessories, and clothing emblazoned with her dot motif.
In anticipation of the collection’s launch, and celebration of Kusama’s recent high-profile exhibitions at the Tate Modern in London and the Whitney Museum in New York, the fashion house also tapped the artist to decorate a series of windows for its stores worldwide. One of the most impressive displays is a pop-up boutique and windows at London department store, Selfridges. The artist styled 24 windows—the largest number in the store’s history to be designed by a single collaborator—that stayed on view through the official launch of the Louis Vuitton collection.
Street side observers are first drawn into the rhythm of Kusama’s world with patterns that flash like an old Morse telegraph pulse replicating dot, upon dot, upon dot. Her obsession with infinity is expressed by dots and circles—shapes with no end. Within Selfridges, the concept store itself bears the artist’s stamp: The Louis Vuitton boutique is defined by a circular footprint that is framed by a dot-perforated cage. Within it, a googol of polka dots covers the floors and punches through white-painted display fixtures. Wayfinding is undefined, allowing visitors to explore the space organically.
Pumpkin theme morphs into sea urchins
Her collection for Louis Vuitton still manages to stand out amidst the dot matrix with vivid red, yellow, green, and blue palettes that form dot-pattern stencils revealing the Louis Vuitton monogram pattern in the negative spaces; in some products, the positive and negative spaces are reversed. Her hallmark pumpkin motif, a prominent theme in her sculptural work, morphs into a sea urchin shell shape to form various floor and hanging fixtures. The hanging pendants provide soft illumination and a dappled effect over vignettes where legs of pants and arms of jackets extend like tentacles.
“By boldly combining key characteristics of two forward-thinking retailers with an extraordinary international artist, the result produces something new and completely unique for the customer,” says Linda Hewson, head of creative at Selfridges. “[This collaboration] brings luxury and high art to the high street and appeals to a broad audience from young to old to international.”