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Yayoi Kusama pumpkin worth $3 million washed out to sea

One of Japan’s most iconic pieces of modern art was badly damaged after being swept out to sea by a strong storm.

You might think you don’t know who Yayoi Kusama is, but chances are you’ve seen one of the Japanese artists’ pieces online or even in person.

At 90 years old, Yayoi is one of the most in demand artists of her generation, creating installations which are both unique and immersive – making them a favourite with art lovers and everyday Instagrammers alike.

Amongst Yayoi’s most iconic and sought-after collections are her sculptures of pumpkins, which come in a range of colours, patterns, and sizes.

They were inspired by hallucinations she started having at 10 years old – which ‘involved flashes of light, fields of flowers, dots, and speaking pumpkins.’

Credit: Unsplash

One of these 6-foot-tall and 8-foot-wide pumpkins was placed indefinitely at the end of a pier on Japan’s island of Naoshima in 1994.

The sculpture, which was amongst the largest Yayoi had made at that time, remained there for over two decades – until Monday that is, when it was washed away by a typhoon.

The giant black and yellow polka-dotted pumpkin was unable to withstand strong waves which smashed above the pier, loosened its metal fastenings, and carried it out to the water.

Employees of the Benesse Art Site, who officially own the sculpture, managed to recover it once the storm had passed. They brought it to shore where it is now being safely kept at the art site.

They were able to salvage three of the large main sections, while some smaller pieces were lost at sea as it tumbled with the waves.

Yayoi Kusama was notified quickly about the dislodging of her art, but it’s still unclear whether Naoshima will have its famous yellow, speckled pumpkin restored.

To rebuild the massive fibre-reinforced plastic structure, Yayoi will need to lend her artistry and input.

However, she is currently in a mental health institution in Tokyo, where she has lived voluntarily since the 1970s due to the frequent hallucinations which ‘completely take over her senses’.

Growing up to abusive parents, Yayoi Kusama was constantly discouraged from pursuing an art career. Yayoi’s mother had even destroyed her canvases while persuading her to become a housewife instead.

As a result, she began creating her art in secret – a self-soothing method for the unexplainable, and often terrifying visions she was having.

Credit: Unsplash

Yayoi recalls, ‘whenever [the hallucinations] happened I would hurry back home and draw what I had seen in my sketchbook… recording them helped to ease the shock and fear of the episodes.’

At the age of 29, she made the brave decision to move to New York City to pursue art, where she would eventually solidify herself among the ranks of Claes Oldenburg and Andy Worhol.

Yayoi Kusama’s story is an inspiring one, which demonstrates that you should never give up on your passions. If at 90 years old, she decides to restore one of her most iconic works – it will cement her reputation as one of the most enduring artists in the world.

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