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Yoko Ono

(b. 1933) American musician and artist


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(1933– )

Japanese artist, active mainly in the USA. She had her first solo exhibition in New York in 1961; it included a Painting to be stepped on and a Smoke painting, made by lighting a painting with a cigarette. These works anticipated Conceptual art in that more important than the objects themselves were the instructions for making them. Her most famous early work was Cut Piece, performed in Kyoto in 1964 and at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1965, in which she sat motionless on the stage and invited members of the audience to cut off her clothing. Influenced by John Cage's ideas of noise as music she had the cutting sounds amplified. The performances are said to have been very different in mood, the New York one being far more aggressive, with blatant racism and sexism being displayed by the audience. When the work was recreated in Paris in 2003 as a demonstration for peace, The Guardian reported that the audience was disappointingly timid and polite. In 1966 Ono met the Beatle John Lennon (1940–80) at an exhibition of her work. They subsequently married and worked in collaboration, for instance on an exhibition at the Robert Fraser Gallery (see Dine) in 1968, an installation of charity boxes. She also made films, the most famous of which is Film no. 4 (1966), consisting of close-ups of bottoms. Refusing it a certificate, the British censor said that there was no problem with showing bottoms but that other parts of the anatomy had got in as well. Ono has remained active as an avant-garde artist. At the 2008 Liverpool Biennial she presented an installation of step-ladders in a bombed church.


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