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Yoko Ono exhibition opens at Tate Modern and is artist's largest UK show ever

Updated: Feb 25

A huge art exhibition dedicated to Yoko Ono is now open at Tate Modern. And it's become one of the hottest London exhibition of the spring.

The mammoth show — called YOKO ONO: MUSIC OF THE MIND — is an entire retrospective, spanning seven decades of the famous artist's career, and charting all the key moments.

Ono is a leading figure in conceptual and performance art, experimental film and music. She developed her practice in America, Japan and the UK, and is renowned for her activism, as well as her campaigns for world peace and a better environment.

The show has been conceived in close collaboration with Ono’s studio, and it's the largest exhibition celebrating the ground-breaking artist ever held in the UK. There's a lavish new accompanying catalogue too.

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The Japanese artist — who was married to the late Beatles musician John Lennon — is now 90 years old. For many visitors, a highlight of the show is the sections dedicated to her years in London, from 1966 to 1971, where she met Lennon.

Black and white photograph of Yoko Ono looking at the camera holding a hammer
Yoko Ono with Glass Hammer 1967. Photograph: Clay Perry © Yoko Ono

But they also get to enjoy many other works — from early performances to her activist projects such as PEACE IS POWER and Wish Tree — and which all collectively trace the development of her innovative work and its enduring impact on contemporary culture.

What will visitors see at the Yoko Ono exhibition?

There are over 200 artworks on display in this show.

There's 'instruction pieces' — where readers are asked via written instructions to imagine, experience, make or complete the artwork — installations, films, scores, music and photography.

Ono's London years are at the heart of the exhibition, charting her radical works created during her five-year stay in London from 1966. Key installations from Ono’s influential exhibitions at Indica and Lisson Gallery feature, including Apple 1966 and the poignant installation of halved domestic objects Half-A-Room 1967.

Ono’s banned Film No. 4 (Bottoms) 1966-7 which she created as a ‘petition for peace’ is displayed alongside material from her influential talk at the Destruction In Art Symposium.

Visitors use pens to draw on a fully white boat and white walls
Yoko Ono, Add Colour (Refugee Boat) , concept 1960. Photo © Tate (Lucy Green)

There's lots of interactivity in the show — something which was highlighted throughout the exhibition reviews by critics.

One of the most striking pieces inviting audience interactions is a new staging of Ono’s recent project Add Colour (Refugee Boat). First seen in 2016, people are invited to add paint to white gallery walls and a white boat, as a way to reflect on urgent issues of crisis and displacement.

Visitors are also able to participate in White Chess Set — a work first realised in 1966 that demonstrates Ono’s anti-war stance. It features a number of all-white chess sets which visitors can sit at and play.

Visitors sit at chess sets on tables and play the game in pairs
Yoko Ono, White Chess Set, 1966, installed in YOKO ONO: MUSIC OF THE MIND. Photo © Tate (Reece Straw)

In fact, the exhibition's title comes from Ono’s Music of the Mind series of concerts and events in British capital (as well as Liverpool) in 1966 and 1967, and where she created instructions for people to imagine sound in their own minds.

Another major highlight is the show's big finale, a huge new iteration of Ono's 2004 work My Mommy Is Beautiful which consists of a 15-metre-long wall of canvases that visitors can attach photographs of their own mothers, as well as sharing personal thoughts and feelings.

The artist’s commitment to feminism is illustrated by key films including FLY (1970-1), in which a fly crawls over a naked woman’s body while Ono's vocals chart its journey, and Freedom (1970), depicting Ono as she attempts and fails to break free from her bra.

Image of a close up of a woman's mouth and nose in profile with a fly on her lips
Yoko Ono, FLY 1970 - 71. Courtesy the artist

Ono’s work can also be seen beyond the Tate Modern exhibition gallery. The iconic former power station's windows overlooking the River Thames feature the artist’s powerful intervention PEACE is POWER, first shown 2017 and translated into multiple languages.

The interactive artwork — Wish Tree, first realised 1996 — also greets visitors at the entrance to Tate Modern, and invites passers-by to contribute individual wishes for peace.

The exhibition is organised by Tate Modern in collaboration with Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf. It follows Ono's most recent London show, Yoko Ono: MEND PIECE for London at the Whitechapel Gallery.

How much are Yoko Ono exhibition tickets?

Tickets for Yoko Ono at Tate Modern are on sale right now and pre-booking is definitely recommended. Tickets for Adults are priced at £20 and concessions are £19. It is of course free for Tate members.

The accompanying new catalogue has been published alongside the show. Also produced in close collaboration with Ono's studio, it features new insights, new research and new commentary from curators and historians. You can order your copy here.

What else is on at Tate Modern?

2024 is a jam-packed year for visitors to Tate Modern, with other major exhibitions including Expressionists, a landmark show of over 130 works by The Blue Rider circle, and the UK’s first major exhibition of American artist Mike Kelley. See the full line up of Tate Modern's 2024 exhibitions here.

YOKO ONO: MUSIC OF THE MIND runs at Tate Modern in London until 1 September 2024.


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