The Kusama show at the Tate Modern is the perfect place to take the kids on a wet afternoon. This may seem an odd recommendation when everyone knows that Kusama is sex-obsessed and one of the exhibits is a room filled with phallus-sprouting furniture, but the children present when I was there were having a whale of a time. And Kusama’s story is as good an introduction to modern art as anyone’s. In part this is because the weird and wonderful shapes created by the artist aren’t just a grown-up being silly; they’re the work of someone who is genuinely insane.
Kusama became an artist when she was a child. She relates how, at the age of 10, she was looking at the pattern of red flowers on a tablecloth when she became one of them. The flowers started to pursue her and as they chased her upstairs she fell, spraining her ankle. Her life as an artist has been her attempt to recreate her hallucinations. For the last 35 years she’s done so from a mental asylum in Japan. This has given a certain veracity to her work, which is now fetching prices higher than any other female artist. The Tate exhibition covers her career over a time-span of more than 60 years, but the most stunning exhibit, called, “Infinity Mirrored Room- Filled with the Brilliance of Life” and leaves everyone, even the cynical 5 year olds, gasping with astonishment.