Described by her late husband John Lennon as 'the world's most famous unknown artist', Yoko Ono is not so unknown anymore.
Once defined by her relationship to Lennon she is now recognised as an important artist in her own right.
There have been retrospectives of her work in New York in 1989, in Germany in 2001, the UK in 2008, and in Frankfurt, Krems, Austria, and Bilbao in 2013. She received a Golden Lion Award for lifetime achievement from the Venice Biennale in 2009 and the 2012 Oskar Kokoschka Prize, Austria's highest award for applied contemporary art.
She is a leading figure of Fluxus (a group of international artists who sought to integrate art and everyday life, in the 1960s - 1970s), an explorer of conceptual art and performance art, and an experimental filmmaker and musician.
Her first Australian retrospective is currently on the MCA Sydney is curated by Rachel Kent. Spanning five decades from the early 1960s to the present, it encompasses her language and instruction texts, sculptures and installations, and films and performances. Many of her works require audience participation from mending and arranging broken crockery, to stamping world maps with 'imagine peace' stamps, to writing personal messages of love to your mother.
The title of the exhibition references a 1969 campaign by Ono and Lennon who rented public billboards in major cities over the Christmas of 1969 to spread their message of peace and hope.
"People think that I'm doing something shocking and ask me if I'm trying to shock people. The most shocking thing to me is that people have war, fight with each other and moreover take it for granted. The kind of thing I'm doing is almost too simple. I'm not interested in being unique or different. Everyone is different. No two persons have the same mouth shape for example, and so without making any effort we're all different. The problem is not how to become different or unique, but how to share an experience, how to be the same almost, how to communicate.
The concept is my work. In the art world, work is shown in a museum and a lot of people or a few people will see it, then if it’s bought by someone, that’s the end of it, or it comes back every once in a while."
- Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono was born in 1933, Tokyo, Japan. She currently lives and works in New York.
Yoko Ono: War is Over! (if you want it) runs until 23 February 2014. Tickets are available at mca.com.au