Yoko Ono’s “Uncursed” Opens in New York

She was “the world’s most famous unknown artist,” according to John Lennon, whose 1969 marriage to Yoko Ono both granted her instant celebrity and nearly eclipsed a serious art career that Ono had nurtured in avant-garde circles for more than a decade. Today, after major art-world recognition—including the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 2009 Venice Biennale—Ono’s uniquely poetic and sly artistic practice, with its roots in Fluxus and haiku, and its heady melding of art, activism, and celebrity, is poised to take over where the rock legend ends.


In July, Ono returned to her native Japan, which was still laboring under the effects of the massive earthquake in March, to accept the Hiroshima Art Prize for her peace activism, and to install an exhibition of her work at the Hiroshima City Art Museum of Contemporary Art. This week, in the midst of setting up for her second show at New York’s Galerie Lelong, which opens today, Ono, elegant and almost elfin in a jaunty straw boater, dark sunglasses, and narrow-hipped black pants, paused to speak with me about her return to Japan and the seeds of her new exhibition. Her New York show, which includes elements of the work created for the Hiroshima exhibition, began with a childhood memory:
“When I was in elementary school in Japan, the textbooks mentioned a warrior, Shikanosuke Yamanaka, who prayed to the new moon, asking to receive seven misfortunes and eight sufferings, to take on and ease the burden of the Japanese people. I remember thinking that I would like to be like him.”

“Later on,” she continued, “my life got extremely intense, and a lot of misery came to me. I was thinking, what did I do wrong? Then I remembered that I had wished for it. So I thought, okay, now I’m going to ask for seven good fortunes and eight treasures in my life. And I saved myself by doing this. I told this story to the people of Hiroshima, and that I wanted to give them what I had wished for, to turn my life around.”

The exhibition, titled “Uncursed,” includes an installation of nine doors, beneath which synthetic puddles reflect an artificial sky. “These are the doors that we opened and closed to go through life,” Ono explained. “There were many doors that blocked us. But we opened them, and we went through. This is the journey to uncurse yourself.”

“Yoko Ono: Uncursed,” is on view at Galerie Lelong in New York from October 28–December 10



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