Posted on October 22, 2023

Yayoi Kusama Apologizes for Past Racist Remarks

Robin Pogrebin, New York Times, October 17, 2023

The popular Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, whose “Infinity Mirror Rooms” have brought lines around the block for one blockbuster exhibition after another, has apologized for racist comments in her 2002 autobiography that drew renewed attention as her new show opened at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

“I deeply regret using hurtful and offensive language in my book,” Kusama, who is 94, said in a statement to The San Francisco Chronicle last week. “My message has always been one of love, hope, compassion and respect for all people. My lifelong intention has been to lift up humanity through my art. I apologize for the pain I have caused.”

Kusama’s apology, which came the day before her show, “Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love,” opened at the museum, referred to passages from her 2002 autobiography, “Infinity Net,” in which she described Black people as “primitive, hyper-sexualized beings.”

The website Hyperallergic most recently surfaced those comments in June. Last week a Chronicle critic denounced the museum’s decision to proceed with the show.

In the book’s original Japanese edition, Kusama also called her New York neighborhood a “slum” where real estate prices were “falling by $5 a day” because of “Black people shooting each other out front, and homeless people sleeping there.” Those sentences were removed from a later English translation.


The controversy over Kusama’s comments is the latest example of an institution forced to grapple with the problematic personal history of a prominent artistic figure. {snip}

Its longest-serving curator, Gary Garrels, resigned in 2020 soon after a post quoted him saying, “Don’t worry, we will definitely continue to collect white artists.” {snip}