Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and Jewish art dealer Leo Castelli both launched their careers in New York’s 1950s multicultural downtown scene. By the late 1950s, due to innovative transport and communication systems, the New York art world was becoming trans-national. In the early 1960s, Kusama thus showed with the Pop and Minimal artists during their formative years. In Europe, she exhibited together with the Dutch Nul and the German Zero artists until the latter disbanded in 1966. However, as the global art marker fully took root, multi-culturalism was replaced by New American Art, with mostly U.S.-born white male artists, most of whom were represented by a single New York gallery, Leo Castelli. In this milieu Kusama became increasingly marginalized. This was in large part due to the efforts of international collectors who sought a global art market monopoly. The experience distinctively shaped Kusama’s art, forcing her to invent art that foreshadowed the politically charged feminist art of the 1970s.
Sponsored by the Asian American Studies Program, the Institute for Japanese Studies, and the Department of History of Art