Yoko Ono


25th March 1969: A week after their marriage, musicians John Lennon and Yoko Ono receive the press at their bedside in the Presidential Suite of the Hilton Hotel, Amsterdam. The couple stayed in bed for seven days ‘as a protest against war and violence in the world’. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)


Tate Modern presents the UK’s largest exhibition celebrating the ground-breaking and influential work of artist and activist Yoko Ono (b.1933, Tokyo). Ono is a trailblazer of early conceptual and participatory art, film and performance, a celebrated musician, and a formidable campaigner for world peace.

Spanning seven decades of the artist’s powerful, multidisciplinary practice from the 1950s to now, YOKO ONO: MUSIC OF THE MIND traces the development of her innovative work and its enduring impact on contemporary culture. It was constructed in close collaboration with Ono’s studio. The exhibition combines over 200 works, including instruction pieces, scores, installations, films, music, and photography. Revealing a radical approach to language, art and participation that continues to speak to the present moment. 

Ideas are central to Ono’s art, often expressed in poetic, humorous and profound ways.

The exhibition explores her pivotal role in experimental avant-garde circles in New York and Tokyo, including developing her ‘instruction pieces.’ Written instructions that ask readers to imagine, experience, make or complete the work. Some exist as a single verb, such as FLY or TOUCH. Others range from short phrases like ‘Listen to a heartbeat’ and ‘Step in all the puddles in the city’ to tasks for the imagination like ‘Painting to be Constructed in your Head’. Each word or phrase aims to stimulate and unlock the reader’s mind.

Previously unseen photographs show Ono’s first ‘instruction paintings’ at her loft studio in New York – where she and composer La Monte Young hosted experimental concerts and events – and in her first solo exhibition at AG Gallery in 1961. The typescript draft of Ono’s ground-breaking self-published anthology Grapefruit, compiling her instructions written between 1953 and 1964, is displayed in the UK for the first time. 

Visitors are invited to activate Ono’s instructions. Concealing themselves in the interactive work Bag Piece 1964 – first performed by Ono in Kyoto, in the same concert where she performed her iconic work Cut Piece 1964 – and bringing their shadows together in Shadow Piece 1963.

The heart of the exhibition charts Ono’s radical works created during her five-year stay in London from 1966.

Here, she became embedded within a countercultural network of artists, musicians and writers, meeting her future husband and longtime collaborator, John Lennon. Key installations from Ono’s influential exhibitions at Indica and Lisson Gallery feature, including Apple 1966 and the poignant installation of halved domestic objects Half-A-Room 1967.

Ono’s banned Film No. 4 (Bottoms) 1966-7, which she created as a ‘petition for peace’ is displayed alongside material from her influential talk at the Destruction In Art Symposium, in which she described the fundamental aspects of her participatory art. Event-based; engaged with every day; personal; partial or presented as unfinished; a catalyst to creative transformation; and existing within the realm of the imagination. 

Visitors can participate in White Chess Set – a game featuring only white chess pieces and a board of white squares, with the instruction ‘play as long as you can remember where all your pieces are’. A work first realised in 1966 that demonstrates Ono’s anti-war stance.

Key themes that recur throughout Ono’s work are explored across decades and mediums.

These include the sky, which appears repeatedly as a metaphor for peace, freedom and limitlessness. As a child fleeing Tokyo during World War II, Ono found solace and refuge in the constant presence of the sky. It appears in the instruction piece Painting to See the Skies 1961, the 1966 installation SKY TV, broadcasting a live video feed of the sky above Tate Modern, and the moving participatory work Helmets (Pieces of Sky), first realised in 2001, inviting visitors to take away their puzzle-piece of the sky. 

The artist’s commitment to feminism is shown in films like FLY 1970-1, in which a fly crawls over a naked woman’s body while Ono’s voice charts its journey. As well as Freedom 1970, in which Ono attempts and fails to break free from her bra. In a section devoted to Ono’s music, feminist anthems such as Sisters O Sisters 1972, Woman Power 1973 and Rising 1995 embolden women to build a new world and have courage and rage, amplifying Ono’s works that denounce violence against women.

Ono has increasingly used her art and global media platform to advocate for peace and humanitarian campaigns, initially collaborating with her late husband, John Lennon. Acorns for Peace 1969 saw Ono and Lennon send acorns to world leaders, while the billboard campaign ‘WAR IS OVER!’ (if you want it) 1969 used the language of advertising to spread a message of peace.

The film BED PEACE 1969 documents the second of the couple’s infamous ‘bed-in’ events staged in Amsterdam and Montreal, during which they spoke with the world’s media to promote world peace amid the Vietnam War. Tate Modern has also staged Ono’s recent project, Add Colour (Refugee Boat), first activated in 2016, inviting visitors to add paint to white gallery walls and a white boat while reflecting on urgent issues of crisis and displacement.

The exhibition culminates in a new iteration of Ono’s participatory installation, My Mommy Is Beautiful, first realised in 2004. It features a 15-metre-long wall of canvases to which visitors can attach photographs of their mother and share personal messages. Moving beyond the exhibition space, Ono’s work extends across Tate Modern’s building and landscape. Gallery windows overlooking the River Thames feature the artist’s decisive intervention, PEACE is POWER, first shown in 2017 and translated into multiple languages. While the interactive artwork Wish Tree, first realised in 1996, greets visitors at the entrance to the exhibition, inviting passers-by to contribute individual wishes for peace.

December 13, 2008 – March 15, 2009, Between The Sky and My Head, Baltic Centre For Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK Concept and Realization Yoko Ono with Jon Hendricks and Thomas Kellein

Listings Information:


15 February – 1 September 2024

Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG; Open daily 10.00 – 18.00

Tickets available at tate.org.uk and +44(0)20 7887 8888

Follow @Tate #YokoOno

YOKO ONO: MUSIC OF THE MIND is supported by John J. Studzinski CBE with additional support from the Yoko Ono Exhibition Supporters Circle and Tate Americas Foundation. Tate Modern organises the exhibition in collaboration with Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf. It is curated by Juliet Bingham, Curator of International Art, with Andrew de Brún, Assistant Curator of International Art, Tate Modern and Patrizia Dander, Head of Curatorial Department, with Catherine Frèrejean, Assistant Curator, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.

Tate’s exhibition takes its title from Ono’s Music of the Mind series of concerts and events in London and Liverpool in 1966 and 1967. It reflects her concept of silent music, in which her ‘instructions’ produce sound in the listeners’ imagination. In 1966, Ono explained her idea: ‘When a violinist plays, which is incidental: the arm movement or the bow sound… I think of my music more as a practice (gyo) than a music. The only sound that exists to me is the sound of the mind. My works are only to induce music of the mind in people…’

Tate Members get unlimited free entry to all Tate exhibitions. Become a Member at tate.org.uk/members. Everyone aged 16-25 can visit all Tate exhibitions for £5 by joining Tate Collective. To enter for free, visit tate.org.uk/tate-collective.

Tate Modern Late: Yoko Ono
23 February 2024, 18.00 – 22.00; Free – some events require a bookable free ticket available at tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/tate-modern-lates

Tate Modern will open after-hours to celebrate YOKO ONO: MUSIC OF THE MIND. The evening will feature DJ sets programmed by Global Roots and artist-led workshops centring on Ono’s key participatory works, including White Chess Set, Wish Trees for London and My Mommy is Beautiful. Throughout the evening, visitors can watch screenings of Ono’s trailblazing short films in the Starr Cinema.

Exhibition tour
24 February 2024, 10:15 – 11:15; £34 (£12 Tate Members)
A Saturday morning tour of the exhibition offers an opportunity to learn about the life and work of Yoko Ono.

Exhibition talk
26 March 2024 / 7 May 2024 / 23 July 2024; 13:00 -14:00; £34 (£12 Tate Members)
Starr Cinema, Tate Modern
Enjoy a one-hour talk before visiting the exhibition to learn about the life and work of Yoko Ono. The ticket price includes entrance to the show.

UNIQLO Tate Play: Yoko Ono, Do it Yourself
30 March – 14 April 2024; Free
Tate Modern invites visitors of all ages to participate in UNIQLO Tate Play: Yoko Ono, Do it Yourself. Participatory works will extend across the building, featuring instruction pieces from Ono’s pioneering book Grapefruit. Some instructions exist as single verbs, such as ‘BREATHE’ or ‘WHISPER’, while others are phrases, such as ‘Fold a crane and read’ or tasks for the imagination like ‘Go on drawing until you disappear’’. Located at various points through the gallery, Ono’s poetic instructions will take audiences on a journey of imaginative play.

UNIQLO Tate Play: Yoko Ono Do it Yourself is presented on the Turbine Hall bridge, Blavatnik Building, Natalie Bell Building and the south landscape. UNIQLO Tate Play is in partnership with UNIQLO.

Yoko Ono playlist

An accompanying playlist of Ono’s music tracks will be available to download from Spotify via a QR code inside the exhibition. Image credit: Yoko Ono with Half-A-Room 1967 from HALF-A-WIND SHOW, Lisson Gallery, London, 1967. Photo © Clay Perry