In the rare interviews that she has given, Yayoi Kusama has described art as a lifeline through a lifetime of crisis. Plagued by visual and auditory hallucinations since childhood, she creates intricate, often overwhelming abstractions—now famous worldwide—that serve as a rough translation of an embattled interiority.
The M+ museum in Hong Kong is betting visitors to its blockbuster Kusama show can find a similar solace in her creations.
The museum is giving away 10,000 tickets to “Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now” to local students as part of a workshop aimed at helping them express mental health issues. It’s apt timing, as the city’s strict social distancing regulations have finally lifted, leaving residents to the abrupt task of reviving connections. M+ has partnered with “Shall We Talk”—a government initiative based on mental health outreach—to launch the program, titled “Shall We Talk at M+.”
“We are not therapists, we can’t necessarily help anyone in that sense, but we can help you to connect your own emotional expression to what you are experiencing,” Keri Ryan, head curator for learning and interpretation at M+, told the South China Morning Post. “We can help people feel more comfortable expressing themselves through making art or walking through the exhibition.”
This is the largest exhibition of Kusama’s work on view in Asia outside Japan and features more than 200 works, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations. It’s arranged chronologically, spanning the drawings she made as a teenager during World War II to her latest immersive “Infinity Rooms.”
The “Shall We Talk at M+” program provides students a guided tour through the exhibition that encourages a dialogue with the display. The program also offers a series of workshops where participants can respond with their own artworks.
Special attention will be paid to the section of the show dedicated to Kusama’s self-portraits, which she began creating around 70 years ago. Students will be prompted to consider how our self-image steadies with experience but never truly stops shifting.
“The workshop isn’t about talking about your feelings, it’s about expressing yourself through color and shape. It’s not about making a perfect work, it’s the process of creating,” Ryan said.