SHOWS THAT MATTER: Yoko Ono Marks 80th Birthday With Uplifting Frankfurt Survey

Yoko Ono and John Lennon, "Bed-In for Peace," 1969
(© Yoko Ono)

WHAT:Yoko Ono: Half-A-Wind, A Retrospective”

WHEN: February 15 – May 12


WHERE: Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Römerberg D-60311, Frankfurt, Germany

WHY THIS SHOW MATTERS: The Japanese performance artist/musician/peace activist Yoko Ono celebrated her 80th birthday yesterday, and the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is honoring her multi-faceted nearly 60-year career in the arts with a retrospective titled, “Half-A-Wind Show, A Retrospective” – after her 1967 exhibition at Lisson Gallery in London – looking back at her message-oriented performative work. The exhibition includes approximately 200 ephemeral objects, film screenings, installations, photographs, drawings, and text pieces, as well as a gallery dedicated to her musical works from the 1960s and 1970s.

The artist's often-unclassifiable artwork has straddled the line between performance art, feminism, activism, music, and poetry since she first arrived in New York from Japan in 1953 to study. After dropping out of school, she immersed herself in the socially conscious art scene of the 1960s, which included figures like John Cage, Fluxus founder George Maciunas, film-maker Jonas Mekas, and her late husband John Lennon. In her early New York years she was most associated with Fluxus, though never a member of the official roster, and garnered attention with controversial pieces like “Cut Piece” (1964-1965), wherein she invited spectators to cut her clothing off with scissors, posing questions about violence, women, and the role of the viewer in a performance.

Other well-known pieces from that period like “Instructions for Paintings” (1961-1962) and “Grapefruit” (published 1964) best represent the inquisitive and literally suggestive nature of her work. Ono’s thoughtful messages, proposals for artistic creation, and overarching messages of peace continue in her installations for the Schirn’s foyer with “Wish Tree,” a cooperative project with museum goers, as well as the billboards she has produced for the city of Frankfurt with simple directives like “DREAM,” “TOUCH,” and “FEEL.” From political actions like “Bed-In For Peace” (1969) to her most recent performance, “Moving Mountains,” for the show in Frankfurt, Ono’s mission at 80 is the same: to remind people that art can fuel change if you want it to, even through the smallest of acts.

To see artworks from the exhibition, click the slideshow here.