The Exhibitionist: Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind At The Tate Modern
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The Exhibitionist: Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind At The Tate Modern

Ed Vaizey dives into the Yoko Ono retrospective at Tate Modern

Tate Modern has just unveiled its blockbuster of the year – an exhibition by Yoko Ono called Music of the Mind. Ed Vaizey dives in.

Review: Yoko Ono: Music Of The Mind, Tate Modern

Yoko Ono, Cut Piece

Cut Piece (1964). Performed by Yoko Ono in ‘New Works by Yoko Ono’, Carnegie Recital Hall, NYC, 21 March 1965. Photo © Minoru Niizuma.

Ono, of course, is a global figure because of her anarchic, influential art, and because she was married to John Lennon. It’s hard to believe Lennon was only 40 when he was killed. Ono is now 91, and too frail to attend the opening.

The exhibition is a captivating testament to the artist’s groundbreaking career, spanning several decades. It features more than 200 pieces encapsulating her diverse and influential body of work. The retrospective, thoughtfully curated by Juliet Bingham and Patricia Dander, will travel on to Düsseldorf. It offers visitors a profound journey into Ono’s avant-garde world, where art is not merely an object of admiration but a medium for participatory engagement and societal reflection.

The exhibition spans seven decades from the 1950s, but at its heart are Ono’s works from the 1960s, when she was in London, a period marked by the emergence of conceptual art. Among these, Cut Piece remains a seminal piece, embodying Ono’s fearless exploration of vulnerability and trust. In this performance, participants are invited to cut away pieces of her clothing, blurring the lines between artist and audience, and challenging traditional notions of artistic creation. This iconic piece serves as a precursor to Ono’s enduring commitment to breaking down barriers and fostering a dynamic relationship between the creator and the spectator.

Integral to the retrospective are Ono’s collaborative efforts with John Lennon, most notably their series of Bed-Ins for Peace. Through these unconventional protests, the couple used their celebrity status to advocate for global harmony and protest against war.

What you will love about the exhibition is its emphasis on interactive installations that invite you to be active participants in the artistic experience. For example you can write your wishes on tags and hang them on a tree – in an attempt to articulate a collective expression of hope and aspiration.

Of course, the song Imagine is forever associated with John and Yoko and the theme of ‘Imagine Peace’ resonates profoundly. Ono’s enduring commitment to this concept is reflected not only in her renowned Imagine Peace Tower but also in various other pieces that echo a call for unity and social change.

Ono was a trailblazer. She seamlessly blended conceptual innovation with a deeply rooted commitment to activism. As visitors navigate through the diverse array of works, they are not only exposed to the evolution of Ono’s artistry but are also prompted to contemplate the broader implications of art as a force for societal introspection and change.


Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind is at Tate Modern until 1 September.

Tickets are £22/free for members and can be booked at

Bankside, London SE1 9TG