“It’s just a conceptual idea. I don’t know how to build anything.”
The Japanese born conceptual artist, musician and social activist Yoko Ono is best known as the widow of the Beatles co-founder John Lennon. Although she started making art in the 1950’s it was not until her marriage to Lennon in 1968 that she started to gain the world wide notoriety she enjoys today.
They turned their honeymoon into a public spectacle with their Bed-Ins for Peace, two weeklong anti-war protests firstly at Amsterdam’s Hilton Hotel and two months later at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel.
About which Ono states in the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon “Up to then, people who were promoting world peace were kind of like intellectual, anemic kind of people, just sort of like passing out pamphlets that nobody wants to read, you know? And so, John was saying, "No, no." That’s why we wanted to do it this way, you know? And I think we did a great job.”
It was in Montreal that they recorded the anti-war anthem Give Peace a Chance with their newly formed Plastic Ono Band that has been credited by many as being instrumental in the breakup of the Beatles.
As Ono told W Magazine “And there’s that hatred that came to me because of what? Jealousy, maybe. That I was with John. Art is the most important thing for me, and if I had been concerned about what people said, I wouldn’t have made those pieces. But they didn’t stop with attacking me; they were attacking John as well. I was concerned that just because of love, he was destroying his career. Well, he certainly didn’t destroy it. But nearly.”
After Lennon’s murder on the street outside his New York home in 1980 Ono has worked hard to preserve and enrich his legacy as well as building her own career as a conceptual artist with exhibitions worldwide.
Thanks to her peace activism, public art projects, recordings, and use of social media Ono has developed a highly visible persona that belie Lennon’s quip about his second wife as “the world’s most famous unknown artist. Everyone knows her name, but no one knows what she actually does.”
Ono’s current exhibition The Riverbed is currently on show at New York’s Andrea Rosen Gallery until the 23rd of January and Galerie Lelong until the 29th of January.