Yoko Ono invites visitors to mend broken pottery in an interactive exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery

Ono is known for her plethora of works that involve kintsugi, as well as a variety of instruction-based pieces encompassing the medium of performance art. She first presented this work specifically – titled Mending Piece I – in 1966 during a solo exhibition at Indica Gallery in London. After which, Ono reached acclaim and consequently became an important figure in the development of conceptual art and fluxus art – the latter is defined by an international and interdisciplinary community of artists, designers, composers and poets in the 60s and 70s who took part in experimental performances that highlighted the process over finished product.
The exhibition takes cues from the Japanese tradition of kintsugi, which involves the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer – a term used for hard and shiny finishes that are applied to materials like wood or metal – mixed with metals such as gold and silver. The process highlights the broken areas of the object, meaning that it celebrates its imperfections. It also dates back to the Muromachi period, running approximately between 1336 to 1573, and therefore is a repair method that has been used for centuries.
From 25 August–2 January 2022, all visitors to London’s Whitechapel Gallery will be able to take part in an interactive exhibition by artist, musician and activist Yoko Ono. Named Mend Piece for London, the show invites participants to follow a set of instructions provided by the artist, who’s left an array of broken pottery fragments on two plain white tables, with simple repairing materials of glue, twine, scissors and tape. “Mend carefully. / Think of mending the world at the same time,” reads the instructions left by Ono and, once visitors have finished, these mended objects will be placed on display on shelves nearby.
Ono also became widely known for her activist work. While married to English singer-songwriter John Lennon of the Beatles (up until his murder in 1980), they used their honeymoon at the Hilton Amsterdam to stage public protests against the Vietnam War. The piece is titled Bed-Ins for Peace and was performed in 1969.
50 years later, and Ono’s work returns to the city once again, this time turning a broader lens onto her wide-spanning career in performance, writing, visual art, experimental music and film. The exhibition is curated by Cameron Foote, assistant curator at Whitechapel Gallery, and an episode of the gallery’s Hear, Now podcast will also accompany the exhibition.