Yayoi Kusama with some of the paintings that feature in her Tate Modern show. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Aged 82 and after more than 60 years as one of the world’s “most interesting, arresting and intriguing” artists, Yayoi Kusama may finally be about to break into the wider public consciousness with the first big retrospective of her work in the west.

Kusama left her native Japan – and the mental health hospital where she resides – for the first time in 12 years, arriving in London on Tuesday for an exhibition of her work at Tate Modern which takes in her entire career as a painter, sculptor, film-maker, novelist and more. It includes work featuring her signature dots, her liberal use of phalluses, her naked interventions and a spectacular new mirrored room installation conceived specially for the show.

The artist – red wig, vibrant lipstick, polka-dot dress – has proved a tricky interviewee in the past. She curtailed one interview with the New York Times after just one question (“Why do you smile so seldom?”). On Tuesday she was more than happy to answer questions about her art, her mental health and her attitudes to men.


Mark Brown