Although the controversial, multi-media artist, poet, singer/songwriter and peace activist won’t actually be visiting, 10 of her works will be on display at Themuseum throughout the summer.
Add Colour: A Yoko Ono Exhibition opens May 12 and continues through Sept. 3.
“She is not coming,” confirms museum chief executive David Marskell. “We’ve invited her, but so far she has declined. At the moment there are no plans for her to visit.”
The physical absence of the artist does not diminish Marskell’s excitement about mounting the exhibition.
“Although all of the works have been exhibited previously, this is the first time they have been grouped together.”
The works were selected specifically for Themuseum by the artist, Marskell confirms.
This is not the first time the venue has featured an exhibition of work by an international celebrity artist. In 2009 it mounted Andy Warhol’s Factory, featuring 60 original works by the late Pop artist.
“In market terms, both are powerful brands,” Marskell acknowledges. “I’m pleased we mount shows that connect with different ages and demographics.
“There are lots of links between what we accomplished with Warhol and what we hope to accomplish with Yoko Ono.”
Although best known as the late John Lennon’s wife, Ono was gaining recognition as an artist before marrying the famous Beatle in 1969.
Born to wealthy parents in Tokyo, Ono began making her mark as an experimental artist in New York City in the 1960s.
She first met Lennon in 1966 when he visited a preview of one of her exhibitions in London.
The couple collaborated on art, film and musical projects, attracting headlines for a series of conceptual events promoting world peace, until Lennon’s death in 1980.
Ono’s artwork has always had strong conceptual and interactive thrusts. Following in the Dada tradition, her work challenges conceptions and assumptions about the nature of art. Love and peace are recurring themes.
Her work not so much invites, but compels viewer involvement and participation.
Add Colour: A Yoko Ono Exhibition features interactive pieces that encourage viewers to participate in and contribute to the exhibition experience. For example, viewers will be invited to hang personal wishes on Wish Trees for Kitchener.
The 79-year-old artist exhibits internationally. Her first U.S. retrospective was held in New York in 2002.
The road leading Ono’s work to Kitchener was circuitous.
Early in 2011 Marskell was attending museum association conferences in which directors and curators were discussing ways of celebrating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
“Rather than celebrating war,” Marskell recalls, “we looked at international icons of peace, which lead us to Yoko Ono.”
Themuseum contacted Ono’s office in New York and an exhibition was developed.
“We never spoke to Yoko directly, but we were encouraged by the response we received.”