Yoko Ono: half-a-wind-show. Retrospectiva


March 14, 2014 - September 4, 2014


Exhibition sponsored by

Yoko Ono: half-a-wind-show. Retrospectiva

Featuring nearly 200 works divided into several thematic sections, including installations, objects, films, drawings, photographs, text, audio, and documentation of past performances, Yoko Ono. Half-A-Wind Show — A Retrospective presents a comprehensive overview of the manifold output of this pioneering conceptual and performance artist. Ideas, rather than materials, are the main component of her work. Many of those ideas are poetic, absurd, and utopian, while others are specific and practical. Some are transformed into objects, while others remain immaterial. Her work frequently reflects the artist’s sense of humor as well as her pronounced socio-critical attitude.

The point of departure for many of Ono’s works is found in her Instructions: oral or written guidelines for viewers that offer a host of suggestions and assign a much more active role to the audience than usually expected in the art world. Many of her pieces could even be regarded as incomplete without the physical or mental participation of the viewer. In 1964 Yoko Ono published the seminal book Grapefruit, which includes many of these instructions.

The exhibition, organized on the occasion of Ono’s 80th birthday, opens with a presentation of some of her most significant works from the 1960s, including her early performances, works on paper, and objects. During this period, Ono emerged as a prominent figure of the New York avant-garde scene and became close to individuals such as musician John Cage, founder of the Fluxus movement George Maciunas, and filmmaker Jonas Mekas. Other sections of the exhibition are dedicated to her film production and work as a musician, spanning her entire career up to the present day. Some of these works, inspired by her collaboration with John Lennon, will be shown alongside more recent projects, such as the album that Ono recorded with Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon in 2012. The final section features her latest installations and participatory pieces, including several that were conceived specifically for this retrospective.

Yoko Ono: half-a-wind-show. Retrospectiva
Tokyo (Japan), 1933

1933–1940 Yoko Ono is born in Tokyo on February 18, 1933. Yoko moves with her family, living in San Francisco, New York, and Tokyo. She receives classical musical instruction, primarily in piano and voice.

1941–1951 Yoko Ono returns to Japan in 1941 and spends several years there. She survives the devastating bombardment of Tokyo in March of 1945.

1951–1954 Yoko Ono is admitted to Gakushūin University as its first female student of philosophy. There, she is introduced to Existentialism and Marxism and other forms of philosophy, and becomes acquainted with the pacifist ideas. She leaves the university after two semesters and follows her family to New York, where she enrolls at Sarah Lawrence College, majoring in contemporary poetry and composition.


Yoko Ono: half-a-wind-show. Retrospectiva
Tokyo (Japan), 1933

1933–1940 Yoko Ono is born in Tokyo on February 18, 1933. Yoko moves with her family, living in San Francisco, New York, and Tokyo. She receives classical musical instruction, primarily in piano and voice.

1941–1951 Yoko Ono returns to Japan in 1941 and spends several years there. She survives the devastating bombardment of Tokyo in March of 1945.

1951–1954 Yoko Ono is admitted to Gakushūin University as its first female student of philosophy. There, she is introduced to Existentialism and Marxism and other forms of philosophy, and becomes acquainted with the pacifist ideas. She leaves the university after two semesters and follows her family to New York, where she enrolls at Sarah Lawrence College, majoring in contemporary poetry and composition.

1955–1960 She withdraws from college. She meets the avant-garde composer Toshi Ichiyanagi and lives with him in Manhattan. She meets John Cage and gets in touch with Morton Feldman, Richard Maxfield, David Tudor, and Merce Cunningham. In 1959, Ono makes the first of many appearances in front of small audiences and begins to make a name for herself as an independent artist. With her composition Lighting Piece (1955) (first performed in 1961), Ono is one of the very first artists to create event scores.

1960/61 Yoko Ono rents a loft on Chambers Street in New York where, with La Monte Young, she organizes events and concerts. Their guests include Marcel Duchamp, Peggy Guggenheim, and George Maciunas. In this context she presents her Instruction Paintings which are shown again at her first solo exhibition at Maciunas’s AG Gallery in New York.

1962 Yoko Ono returns to Japan and remains in Tokyo until 1964. She stages her first solo concert and exhibition, featuring a number of her Instructions for Paintings, at the Sogetsu Art Center. At the same venue, Ono appears in a performance of John Cage and performs other pieces with Cage and David Tudor.

1963/64 Yoko Ono meets Anthony Cox. They get married and their daughter Kyoko Cox is born on August 3, 1963. During this period, Nam June Paik arrives in Tokyo and performs with Ono. In 1964 she performs Morning Piece, in which she offers past and future mornings for sale. She publishes the artist´s book Grapefruit containing a collection of her Instructions. Ono performs Cut Piece and Bag Piece, at the “Contemporary American Avant-Garde Music Concert: Insound and Instructure” in Kyoto. In the winter of 1964/65, Ono and Cox move to New York. There, Ono initiates a number of postcard events including Draw Circle Event.

1965 The concert entitled “New Works of Yoko Ono” is presented at the Carnegie Recital Hall in New York. Ono takes part in a number of Fluxus events and performs Beat Piece for the first time in Perpetual Fluxfest presents Yoko Ono. A second major concert entitled “Fluxorchestra at Carnegie Recital Hall” features her Sky Piece for Jesus Christ. She stages her first “imaginary pieces” events or exhibitions that are merely announced and take place only in the minds of the audience.

1966/67 Yoko Ono realizes Blue Room Event for in her own apartment and then in the Everson Museum, Syracuse and in the MoMA, New York. She participates in several performances at the Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS) and presents a solo exhibition at Indica Gallery, London, where she meets for the first time John Lennon. In 1966/67, Ono makes the long version of Film No. 4. (Bottoms). The film, initially censored in Great Britain, premieres in 1967. Her Lion Wrapping Event, in which Ono wraps a large sculpture of a lion in cloth, takes place at Trafalgar Square. The Lisson Gallery opens her major solo exhibition Half-A-Wind Show.

1968 In addition to concert appearances, Yoko Ono and John Lennon produce their first joint performance Acorn Event and perform earlier works by Ono, including Bag Piece. The first two of joint film productions, Two Virgins and Film No. 5 (Smile), premiere in Chicago and their first album, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, is released.

1969 Yoko Ono and John Lennon are married in Gibraltar on March 20. Their film Rape is presented for the first time that month. In place of a honeymoon and in support of world peace, they perform Bed-In for Peace at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam. During the presentation of the same performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, they record the song Give Peace a Chance. Large billboards and posters are set up in twelve cities around the world; they display the words War Is Over! (if you want it). In the Acorns for Peace action, they send acorns to ninety-six heads of state and international political figures. They make Peace-Phonecalls to various radio stations.

1970/71 Yoko Ono makes her films Freedom and Fly. Apotheosis, Erection, and Imagine, which are produced in collaboration with Lennon, are shown at a number of film festivals. Yoko Ono presents the retrospective This is Not Here at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York. The exhibition, conceived in collaboration with Maciunas, features the first presentation of Water Event and AMAZE, as well as several Dispensers, from which visitors can insert coins and receive capsules filled with air, acorns or other things. For her “imaginary event” Museum of Modern (F)art, Ono holds an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition is advertised, and a catalog is published.

1972–1975 Yoko Ono and John Lennon receive the Positive Image of Women Award presented by the National Organization of Women for their songs Woman is the Nigger of the World and Sisters, O Sisters. Ono’s first straight pop album, the double LP Approximately Infinite Universe is released. In 1972 she exhibits at Documenta 5. Ono and Lennon´s son Sean Tara is born on October 9, 1975.

1976–1980 Yoko Ono, John Lennon, and their son take two extended trips to Japan. The couple withdraws progressively from public exposure. John Lennon is shot and killed on December 8, 1980.

1981–1985 The videos Walking on Thin Ice and Goodbye Sadness are released along with several singles and the LPs Season of Glass and It’s Alright (I see Rainbows). Ono is awarded a Grammy for album of the year for the last LP she recorded with Lennon. Strawberry Fields, the memorial to Lennon, designed by Ono, is dedicated in New York’s Central Park.

1986–1989 In 1989 her solo exhibition, Yoko Ono: Objects, Films, is presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The show includes the premiere presentation of her new bronze sculptures. The exhibition entitled Yoko Ono: The Bronze Age is presented in several cities in the US and Europe. One of the curators is the artist and Fluxus expert Jon Hendricks, who would be involved in many of Ono’s projects from then on.

1990–1995 The exhibition entitled Yoko Ono: In Facing is held at the Riverside Studios in 1990. She is represented at the Venice Biennale, at which Fluxus was a focal theme. A cinema retrospective, first presented at the American Federation of Arts in New York, embarks on a world tour. In 1992 The Onobox CD collection, that includes new recordings as well as reissues of her previous music, is released. Ono develops concepts for a number of public events, including the massive installation Yoko Ono: A Celebration of Being Human in Langenhagen, Germany. The spectacular projection event Yoko Ono: Lighting Piece is presented in an urban setting in Florence.

1996–1999 Her Rising album of 1995 is released as a remix. Yoko Ono tours the US and Europe with Sean Lennon’s IMA band. She is one of the first artists to participate in internet-based exhibitions as the group show Internet 1996 World Exposition and the solo show Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, presented on the website of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. She continues to participate in physical exhibitions, including Yoko Ono: Conceptual Photography at the Fotografisk Center in Copenhagen, Yoko Ono: En Trance - Ex It in Alicante and Valencia, Spain, and the retrospective Yoko Ono: Have You Seen a Horizon Lately?, with venues in Great Britain, Germany, Finland, and Israel.

2000–2004 YES Yoko Ono, the most extensive retrospective devoted to the artist to date, is shown at the Japan Society in New York in 2000 and subsequently presented at numerous venues in North America, Korea and Japan.

In 2003, Ono performs Cut Piece once again at the age of seventy in Paris. She participates in the Liverpool Biennial.

2005–2009 Yes, I’m a Witch, a remix album, is released in 2007. Her Imagine Peace Tower is inaugurated in Reykjavik. In 2008, the retrospective Yoko Ono: Between the Sky and My Head is presented at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany and at the Baltic Art Centre, Gateshead, Great Britain. In 2009 Ono is awarded the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the fifty-third Venice Biennale. Between My Head and the Sky, the first album since 1973 made by the Plastic Ono Band, which now includes Sean Lennon, is released.

2010–2013-2014 For the first time in many years, Yoko Ono gathers former members of the Plastic Ono Band for a concert. In 2011/2012 she receives multiple honors for her life’s work, including the Hiroshima Art Prize, the Oskar Kokoschka Prize, and the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dublin Biennial. Her To the Light exhibition is presented at the Serpentine Gallery in London. In 2013–14 Yoko Ono. Half-A-Wind Show. A Retrospective in honor of her eightieth birthday is presented at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, the Louisiana Museum in Humblebaek, Denmark, the Kunsthalle Krems in Austria and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, in Spain.

Yoko Ono
Portrait, London, 2013
Photo: © Kate Garner. Courtesy of Yoko Ono

Tokyo (Japan), 1933

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Yoko Ono: half-a-wind-show. Retrospectiva

Text on paper, glass, metal frame, metal chain, magnifying glass, painted ladder.
Ladder: 183 x 49 x 21 cm, framed text: 64.8 x 56.4 cm
Private Collection.
Photo by Oded Löbl © Yoko Ono

Gallery 305
Ceiling Painting, Yes Painting

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The interactive object known as Ceiling Painting was an important work shown at Ono’s 1966 Indica Gallery show in London. The viewer is invited in his or her mind to climb to the top of a white ladder, where a magnifying glass, attached by a chain, hangs from a frame on the ceiling. The viewer uses the reading glass to discover a block letter “instruction” beneath the framed sheet of glass: it says “YES”.

Advertisement Published in Village Voice, December 2, 1971.
Private Collection
© Yoko Ono

Gallery 306
Advertisement for Museum of Modern (F)Art

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For this very ironic and subversive work Yoko Ono announced her solo exhibition at the MoMA in New York in an ad in The Village Voice. In the corresponding film, pedestrians are interviewed in the street and asked whether they have seen Ono’s exhibition at the MoMA, to which most respond with something like “no, but I plan to”. The subversive action continues: Ono describes the alleged opening of a container full of perfumed flies—with the same volume as her own body—in the middle of the MoMA garden. Photographs in the corresponding book “document” all of the places in New York visited by the flies, including well-known art scene locations, such as Jasper John’s studio on the lower east side. By making them both a backdrop for the presentation of her concept, Ono occupies in a sense with this imaginary exhibition the world’s most famous art museum—at which, until 1971, only very few solo exhibitions of the work of female artists not to mention contemporary artists, had ever been presented—as well as “her” city of New York.

© Yoko Ono

Gallery 304
Season of Glass

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Yoko Ono has also been a key figure in the music scene. She has maintained a lifelong interest in music. Her father was a highly accomplished pianist, despite opting for a career in banking. As a child, she remembers listening to everyday sounds and transposing them into musical notation.

Ono’s first husband Toshi Ichiyanagi was a composer. While living in New York in the late 1950s, through him and others, she met many of the leading avant-garde musicians of the time, among them John Cage. She performed with John Cage when he visited Japan in 1962.

In 1969 she launched Plastic Ono Band, together with John Lennon.

Yoko Ono in Half-A-Room, Lisson Gallery, London, 1967
Photo by Clay Perry © Yoko Ono

Gallery 305
Yoko Ono in Half-A-Room

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Half-a-Suitcase; Half-a-Radio; Half-a-Picture; Half-a-Heater; Half-a-Chair; Half-a-Bookshelf; Half-a-Garbage Can; Half-a-Sauce Pan; Half-a-Tea Pot; Half-a-Hat; Half-a-Tea-Kettle; Half-a-Measuring Cup; Half-a-Sack; Half-a-Basket of Flowers; Half-a-High Heeled Shoe; Half-a-Man’s Shoe; Half-a-Strainer; Half-a-Plastic Cup; Half-a-Scrub Brush; Half-a-Utensil; Half-a-Compact; Half-a-Plastic Soap Holder; Half-a-Glasses Case; Half-a-Globe Holder; Half-a-Glass Jar; Half-a-Drinking Glass; Half-a-Drinking Glass; Half-a-Dresser.
Cut in half, painted white

Life is only half a game.
Molecules are always at the verge of half disappearing and half emerging.
Somebody said I should also put half-a-person in the show. But we are halves already.

“Some notes on the Lisson Gallery Show”, October 1967, published in Yoko Ono at Lisson: Half-A-Wind Show, exh.cat. (London: Lisson Gallery, 1967)

Cut Piece, performed by Yoko Ono, Carnegie Recital Hall, New York, 1965
Photo by Minoru Niizuma Courtesy of Yoko Ono

Gallery 306
Cut Piece

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Cut Piece.

This piece was performed in Kyoto, Tokyo, New York and London. It is usually performed by Yoko Ono coming on the stage and in a sitting position, placing a pair of scissors in front of her and asking the audience to come up on the stage, one by one, and cut a portion of her clothing (anywhere they like) and take it. The performer, however, does not have to be a woman.


First version for single performer:

It is announced that members of the audience may come on stage-one at a time-to cut a small piece of the performer’s clothing to take with them.
Performer remains motionless throughout the piece.
Piece ends at the performer’s option.

Second version for audience:

It is announced that members of the audience may cut each other’s clothing.
The audience may cut as long as they want.

Yoko Ono, “Strip-Tease Show”, 1966

Sky Piece to Jesus Christ, performed by Yoko Ono and others, Carnegie Recital Hall, New York, 1965
Photo by Peter Moore © Barbara Moore/Licensed by VAGA, NY

Gallery 306
Sky Piece to Jesus Christ

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In Ono’s performance Sky Piece to Jesus Christ, members of an orchestra are wrapped in gauze bandages during a concert and thus forced to stop playing their instruments. The title is not a reference to Christian subjects but to John Cage, who had earned such a cult status in avant-garde music circles that he was celebrated “like Jesus.” In Ono’s eyes, the sky represents the epitome of freedom in contrast to the inner and outer bonds visualized in the performance. During the first performance of the piece in 1965.

Yoko Ono: half-a-wind-show. Retrospectiva

The educational space designed to complement the exhibition recognizes Yoko Ono as a seminal figure in the art world. The texts, images, and videos of this space show some of the keys to Ono’s artistic production, including her instructions, performance art, activism, and participation. This space is set up in a corridor next to the galleries and in the balcony area above gallery 208, where visitors can consult the exhibition catalogue.

Yoko Ono: half-a-wind-show. Retrospectiva


On March 12, Yoko Ono will present three performances at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

The event will mark the opening on March 14 of the exhibition dedicated to the artist.

As a companion to the exhibition Yoko Ono. Half-A-Wind Show — A Retrospective, on March 12, at 6:30 pm, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao will host two of the artist’s legendary performances – Sky Piece to Jesus Christ and Promise Piece – and a new version of her more recent performance, Action Painting, created specifically for the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Museum Auditorium. Duration: 35 min.
Museum Members €12, general public €15.

Tickets available at Museum ticket offices and on the website.


Many of Yoko Ono’s works require audience participation. Every day until June 29, museum docents will be on the museum from 11 am to 2 pm to activate some of the artworks in the exhibition. The docents will be located in the classical galleries beside Water Piece and White Chess Set, the balcony over the Atrium in Wish Tree, in gallery 303 next to Telephone in Maze, and in the corridor towards gallery 303 (Touch Me and Cricket Memories) to provide visitors with more information about the artist and her work.


Join Museum staff to learn about the most relevant works in this exhibition, the behind-the-scenes of the exhibition installation, and other curiosities.

CURATORIAL VISION Yoko Ono. Half-A-Wind Show — A Retrospective

Álvaro Rodríguez Fominaya, Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

KEY CONCEPTS Yoko Ono. Half-A-Wind Show — A Retrospective

Marta Arzak, Associate Director of Education and Interpretation.

Meeting point: Information Desk, 6:30pm. Advanced online booking required. Minimum 8, maximum 20 people.


Take part in a series of workshops dedicated to Yoko Ono. Each action is inspired by a word that is key to the artist. Check the Museum website for more information about each.

*Led by the artist MawatreS


Follow the instructions! Workshop inspired by Yoko Ono’s book Grapefruit in which written instructions lead to the creation of works of art.


Moving image! Photography and video workshop focusing on the human body.


Flags to the wind! Workshop in which everyday objects transform and send messages to the world.

Time and place:
New education spaces and Zero Espazioa, from 6 to 8 pm.
available online only, starting April 8. Museum Members €12, general public €15. 18 years and older. Minimum 10 people per group, maximum 15.

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