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Creative Combustion or Disciplinary Clash?

Brisbane curator Jay Younger recently unveiled what may be Yayoi Kusama’s largest public artworks yet. Jenna Reed Burns reports.

Creative Combustion or Disciplinary Clash?


December 12th, 2012

Yayoi Kusama‘s ‘Eyes are Singing Out’ is a mural that extends the length of a city block (90 metres) outside the new Supreme and District court building in Brisbane.

Image © John Gollings

It’s already become a destination artwork as it is Kusama’s only permanent artwork on show in Australia and, says curator Jay Younger, it may even be her largest permanent artwork in the world.

Yayoi Kusama

Jenna Reed Burns asked her to expand on why she feels art is integral to architecture.

As a curator and an artist yourself how important is the integration of art and design into architecture?

I think both help the other. What is interesting about the courthouse is that the design director Dr John Hockings of Architectus loves the artwork and sees it as a positive addition to the building. These three artists would never had had this opportunity without the building. Public art provides artists with a professional and creative development opportunity, and it provides the public with a way of seeing art which is really quite different from seeing it in a traditional gallery context.

Image © John Gollings

What is important about commissioning public art?

Artists should not be expected to illustrate a theme. If you ask an acclaimed artist to illustrate or reduce their work to clichéd symbols, this is a big public art failing. The integrity of the artist’s or designer’s work needs to be respected. They are selected on those merits and the integrity of their work is ushered through the process to the final commissioning phase.

Image © John Gollings

All three commissioned artists – Japanese Yayoi Kusama, and Australians Sally Gabori and Gemma Smith – are women, and two (Kusama and Gabori) are octogenarians. Is this unusual?

Most often I imagine it would be mostly male artists and they would be of a certain age and experience level. Demographically and artistically these women bring together three entirely different perspectives which, for me, make a statement about democracy being about difference.

Image © John Gollings

Yayoi Kusama


Jay Younger


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