Broken cups to support the Whitechapel Gallery


Yoko Ono is a groundbreaking artist, activist, and creator. Her work extends across a variety of media, including music, film, instruction, performance, installation, painting, sculpture, and text. She pioneered the ideas of feminism in artistic practice, and she dedicated her whole existence to campaign for world peace and non-violence.

The artist Yoko Ono, courtesy of the artist

At the age of 82, the Japanese artist continues to express her artistic research promoting a limited-edition work to raise funds for the Whitechapel Gallery in London, founded in 1901 and the only one which displayed the masterpiece “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso.
Mend Piece for John” consists of a broken ceramic cup in a box sold together with some glue to repair it for £175. Ono has only produced 100 pieces of the work, which comes with directions instructing the buyer to take into consideration how to “mend the world” while repairing the broken cup.

Mend Piece for John, courtesy of the Whitechapel Gallery

The Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition of Ono’s work “Mend Piece for London”, which involves a table full of broken cups and saucers and materials for repair, such as scissors, glue, twine, and tape. The visitors are encouraged to take a sit and transform the broken pieces into objects, overcoming their violent rupture. Once finished, they can display the results along the shelves on the walls.
Ono first presented this kind of work during a solo exhibition in 1966 at the Indica Gallery under the name of “Mending Piece I”, where she first met her late husband, John Lennon, who worked together with the artist in several projects, such as “Bed-in for Peace” and “WAR IS OVER! If you want it”.

Mend Piece for London, courtesy of the Whitechapel Gallery

At the base of these works, there is the Japanese tradition of kintsugi, the art of repairing broken pottery using lacquer mixed with precious metals as gold or silver which dates back to the Muromachi period (1335-1573). This process considers breakage an important part of the history of an object, which is the reason why the reparation is highlighted rather than concealed.
These artworks also call to the mind the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-sabi, which considers the embrace of the flawed or imperfect its core.
The pieces want to emphasize the function of the individual gesture in collective life. The act of repair is intended to lead to the healing which takes place in the mind and in the community, and, on a larger scale, to the healing of the wounds generated by violence, hatred, and war. In fact, on the installation wall, visitors can read Ono’s words: “Mend with wisdom/mend with love./It will mend the earth/at the same time”.

Written by
Valentina Ricci