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Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama united for exhibition at Sotheby’s S/2 Gallery
‘Traumata’ will bring together important sculptures, paintings, prints and works on paper that explore the intense psychological states that comprise Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama’s divergent yet parallel careers.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s S|2 Gallery will stage London’s first joint exhibition dedicated to the work of Louise Bourgeois (1911– 2010) and Yayoi Kusama (born 1929). Opening on 23 February, Traumata: Bourgeois/Kusama will bring together defining works from important private collections and art foundations to reveal how these legendary artists laid bare their own psychological traumas to open up new territories for female artistic expression.

Japan-born Kusama, best known for her obsessive, densely patterned polka-dot paintings and mirrored installations, has attracted more visitors to her exhibitions around the world than any other artist in recent years. French-born Bourgeois, known for creating unflinchingly honest, autobiographical works which explore sexuality, motherhood and the darkest depths of her own psychology, is credited with inspiring and empowering a wave of contemporary female artists.

Burdened by childhood trauma and given to intense psychological states, for both Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama art was always the way to salvation. “Art is restoration”, said Bourgeois, “the idea is to repair the damages that are inflicted in life”. Throughout her career, Bourgeois created art that dealt with the emotions resulting from the discovery of her domineering father’s affair with her live-in tutor, all while her knowing mother turned a blind eye. Kusama – born in 1929 to a prosperous family in Matsumoto, Japan – similarly creates work heavily shaped by childhood experience. Her mother’s contempt of a husband who was prone to long absences and serial womanising, and her vehement and violent opposition to Kusama’s wish to become an artist exacerbated her nascent hallucinosis: a psychological condition that would become the lifelong well-spring for her obsessive-compulsive work. “By translating hallucinations and fear of hallucinations into paintings,” said Kusama, “I have been trying to cure my disease”. In an attempt to manage these psychological difficulties, Kusama has been a voluntary resident in Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill in Tokyo since 1977. Though driven by intensely personal pathologies, both artists have used their work as a platform to explore wider socio-political issues concerning gender, sexuality, embodiment and subjectivity; issues that continue to resonate strongly today

‘Traumata’ will bring together important sculptures, paintings, prints and works on paper that explore the intense psychological states that comprise Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama’s divergent yet parallel careers. Organised around four main themes, ‘Good Mother/Bad Mother’, ‘Exile/Dislocation’, ‘Sexuality/War’ and ‘Memory/Melancholia’, the exhibition will span the entirety of the artists’ careers, from rarely seen paintings created by Kusama for her first exhibitions in Japan, to now-iconic sculptures, such as Louise Bourgeois’ Spider.

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