The central theme in the life, philosophy and work of the Japanese-American artist Yoko Ono (*1933) is the balance of power between war and peace, whereby her personal attitude is unequivocal: “Free you – Free me – Free us – Free them” were the words she used to summarise it just a few years ago.
Now 86, the artist presents her most extensive exhibition of works in the MdbK since her retrospective in the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt five years ago. The exhibition is entitled “PEACE is POWER”.
Yoko Ono is one of the most influential yet controversial artists of our epoch. A pioneer of concept art, she is considered among the most prominent trailblazing figures within the US-American fluxus movement. As early as 1961, one of her exhibitions exclusively presented instructions instead of pictures. These “Instructions” are afforded a special place within the Leipzig exhibition, also because they continue to epitomise Yoko Ono’s artistic approach: “Reading the instructions gives you an idea of the picture, so why produce the picture as well?”
An ‘instruction’ for her own life would be inconceivable. Yoko Ono’s Japanese roots, her formative years in 1960s New York and her later relocation to London – a life between Far East tradition, the American quest for freedom and commonwealth; greater diversity would be virtually impossible. This rich wealth of experience has given Yoko Ono’s work its sensitivity, clarity and depth – without neglecting rebellion and critique. After all, her appreciation of life is existential. Her belief in the power of the human spirit to change the world appears indomitable. And her conviction that everything in the universe is connected fills her life and her art, in which she continuously refers to natural elements life air, water, earth and fire. Yoko Ono ignores boundaries and sets new standards for life and our perception of art – placing the utopia of a better world within reach.
The roughly 60 works and series’ shown in Leipzig were selected by the artist in collaboration with her longstanding friend and curator Jon Hendricks and Alfred Weidinger. The works exhibition finds its ideal presentation space in the rooms of the MdbK: with its 15 galleries and three light-bathed terraces, as well as a 2,250 m² courtyard, the minimalist language and the immense capacity of the Museum, opened 2004 based on plans by the Berlin architects Hufnagel, Pütz and Rafaelian, is the perfect setting to showcase the works of Yoko Ono – expansive, light and lucid.
Yoko Ono has expressed herself in a variety of materials in her oeuvre, processing her artistic concerns in installations, films, fluxus pieces, performances and very rarely shown drawings. The Museum is particularly honoured that three of her early performances will be staged at the MdbK, directed by Yoko Ono.
Much of Yoko Ono’s work is designed to be participative. For “POWER is PEACE”, all artists living in Germany are invited to immerse themselves in her work entitled “Water Event” and to submit a contribution to the exhibition. Information for interested artists will be released shortly on the MdbK social media channels.