TOKYO (AP) — Polka dots are Japanese avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama's lifelong inspiration, obsession and passion.
And so they're everywhere — not only on canvases but on installations shaped like gnarled tentacles and oversized yellow pumpkins. As part of her retrospective on exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, they also sparkle as "firefly" light bulbs reflected on water and mirrors.
Kusama's signature splash of dots has now arrived in the realm of fashion in a collection from French luxury brand Louis Vuitton — bags, sunglasses, shoes and coats.
"Polka dots are fabulous," Kusama said in a recent interview with The Associated Press, looking much younger than her 83 years in a bright red wig, a polka dot dress she designed herself and one of the new Louis Vuitton polka dot scarves.
Dots aside, Kusama cuts an odd figure for the fashion world. She has lived in a psychiatric institution for decades, battling demons that feed her art.
Still, in her Tokyo studio, filled with wall-sized paintings throbbing with her repetitive dots, Kusama said the collaboration was a natural, developed from her friendship with Louis Vuitton creative director Marc Jacobs.
Louis Vuitton had already scored success 10 years ago by collaborating on a bag line with another Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami. The latest Kusama collection is showcased at its boutiques around the world, including New York, Paris, Tokyo and Singapore, sometimes with replica dolls of Kusama.
"The polka dots cover the products infinitely," said Louis Vuitton, which racks up 24 billion euros ($29 billion) in annual revenue, a significant portion in Japan. "No middle, no beginning and no end."
Dots started popping up in Kusama's work more than 50 years ago, from her early days as a pioneer Japanese woman venturing abroad.