Grapefruit (book)

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Grapefruit, First Edition, 1964

Grapefruit is an artist's book written by Yoko Ono, originally published in 1964. It has become famous as an early example of conceptual art, containing a series of "event scores" that replace the physical work of art – the traditional stock-in-trade of artists – with instructions that an individual may, or may not, wish to enact.

Grapefruit is one of the monuments of conceptual art of the early 1960s. She has a lyrical, poetic dimension that sets her apart from the other conceptual artists. Her approach to art was only made acceptable when [people] like Kosuth and Weiner came in and did virtually the same thing as Yoko, but made them respectable and collectible.

Origins of the event score[edit]

Event scores were developed by a number of artists attending John Cage's experimental music composition classes at the New School for Social Research in New York. Whilst Ono did not attend these informal lessons, her husband at the time, Ichiyanagi Toshi (an experimental musician), did and Toshi and Ono became regulars of Cage's circle of friends by 1959. Other members of this group included David Tudor, Morton Feldman, Richard Maxfield and Merce Cunningham. Invention of the event score is usually credited to George Brecht,[2] but La Monte Young and Yoko Ono are also cited as amongst the first to experiment with the form.[3] Both Cage and Brecht were deeply influenced by "Oriental thinking",[4] and Ono found that her Buddhist-inspired work was, almost accidentally, fêted by the emerging New York counterculture as avant-garde.

Event Scores, involve simple actions, ideas, and objects from everyday life recontexualized as performance. Event Scores are texts that can be seen as proposal pieces or instructions for actions. The idea of the score suggests musicality. Like a musical score, Event Scores can be realized by artists other than the original creator and are open to variation and interpretation.[5]

Evolution of the book[edit]

Often considered a Fluxus artwork, the work was originally published by Ono's own imprint, Wunternaum Press, in Tokyo in an edition of 500. After leaving New York in 1962 – where she had exhibited at Maciunas' AG Gallery, amongst others – her then-husband Anthony Cox suggested she collect her scores together. George Maciunas, the central personality in Fluxus, had apparently been trying to reach her in Tokyo with the aim of printing a similar book in New York,[6] as part of his series of Fluxkits (see Water Yam),[7] but his letters had not reached her; she sent some of the scores and a prepublication advertisement to be published in his Fluxus newspaper in February 1964 when contact was finally established.

First edition[edit]

The name Grapefruit was chosen as title because Ono believed the grapefruit to be a hybrid of an orange and a lemon, and thus a reflection of herself as "a spiritual hybrid" (in reality, the grapefruit originated as an accidental cross of the sweet orange and the pomelo).[6] It also seems likely that it is a playful allusion to Brecht's Water Yam, itself a pun on Brecht and Watt's Yam Festival, which, culminating in a series of events and performances in May 1963, had been derived from "May" backwards.

The first edition that was published in 1964 in Japan by Wunternaum Press created by Yoko Ono, contains over 150 "instruction works"; virtually all are in English, with about a third translated into Japanese. They are divided into five sections: Music, Painting, Event, Poetry and Object. The instructions are preceded by dedications to figures including John Cage, La Monte Young, Nam June Paik, Isamu Noguchi and Peggy Guggenheim, and also includes documentation relating to Ono's recent exhibitions and performances.[6] The work was originally sold for $3.00 before publication, $6.00 after.


Wunternaum Press. Tokyo, Japan (Paperback)

Subsequent editions[edit]

The second edition was published in 1970 by Simon & Schuster in New York, Peter Owen Ltd in London, and Bärmeier & Nikel in Frankfurt. As well as an introduction by John Lennon ("Hi! My name is John Lennon. I'd like you to meet Yoko Ono ..."[8] In the 2000 reissue of Lennon's 1964 book, In His Own Write, Ono wrote a similar introduction), the work contained 80 more instruction pieces, and included two more sections, Film and Dance. The book ends with a collection of Ono's writings including To The Wesleyan People, 1966.[9] Paperback editions were issued by Sphere and Touchstone around the same time, and a reprint by Simon & Schuster in 2000. The Sphere edition has a memorable sleeve, conflating the title with Yoko Ono's film Bottoms, (or no. 4), a film composed exclusively of naked bottoms, made in 1966.


Bärmeier & Nikel. Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Peter Owen. London, UK

Simon & Schuster. New York, USA (Hardcover with dust jacket)

POMELO. Ediciones de la Flor. Buenos Aires, Argentina


Sphere Books. London, UK

Simon & Schuster. New York, USA (Paperback)

TouchStone Book, USA


Front cover of the book (2000 edition)

Simon & Schuster. New York, USA

Bakhåll. Sweden


PAMPLEMOUSSE. Textuel. France




POMELO. Centro de Creación Experimental. Cuenca, Spain


Museum of Modern Art. New York, USA. (Facsimile of first edition in slip case.)[10]

Some of the scores[edit]







Take off

— 1962 Summer


Keep coughing a year.

— 1961 Winter


Imagine the clouds dripping.
Dig a hole in your garden to
put them in.

— 1963 Spring

Painting to exist only when it's copied or photographed[edit]

Let people copy or photograph your paintings. Destroy the original.

— 1964 Spring

Painting to be constructed in your head[edit]

Go on transforming a square canvas
in your head until it becomes a
circle. Pick out any shape in the
process and pin up or place on the
canvas an object, a smell, a sound
or a colour that came to your mind
in association with the shape.

— 1962 Spring


Think that snow is falling. Think that snow is falling
everywhere all the time. When you talk with a person, think
that snow is falling between you and on the person.
Stop conversing when you think the person is covered by snow.

— 1963[12]

Tunafish sandwich piece[edit]

Imagine one thousand suns in the
sky at the same time.
Let them shine for one hour.
Then, let them gradually melt
into the sky.
Make one tunafish sandwich and eat.

— 1964 Spring[13]

Painting to be stepped on[edit]

Leave a piece of canvas or finished
painting on the floor or in the street.

— 1960 winter[14]


Initially a sequel, Grapefruit II, was planned. It is mentioned once in Grapefruit and had a pre-publication price of $5 and a post-release price of $10.[14] It was planned to be released in 1966[14] but was cancelled. Ono stated that it would contain 150 new pieces not featured in Grapefruit, including her "touch poems".

In July 2013, Ono released Grapefruit's sequel, called Acorn, another book of "instructional poems".[15]


  1. ^ David Bourdon [de] quoted in New York Times 1989, reproduced in Yes. Yoko Ono, Harry Abrams 2000, p26
  2. ^ Quoted in George Brecht, by Yve-Alain Bois
  3. ^ Yes. Yoko Ono, Harry Abrams 2000, p18
  4. ^ George Brecht
  5. ^ Alison Knowles website
  6. ^ a b c Yes. Yoko Ono, Harry Abrams 2000, p82
  7. ^ Other artists he intended to compile included Daniel Spoerri, Allan Kaprow, Dick Higgins and La Monte Young
  8. ^ Grapefruit (1970 reissue)
  9. ^ See
  10. ^ "MoMA | Happy (Belated) Birthday to Yoko Ono's Grapefruit". Retrieved 2021-02-16.
  11. ^ Both quoted from Grapefruit, 1964, reprinted in Yes. Yoko Ono, Harry Abrams 2000, p78 and 81
  12. ^ "AIU: selected instruction pieces by yoko ono". Archived from the original on 2009-03-07. Retrieved 2008-09-26.
  13. ^ From Grapefruit, 1964, published by Yes. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1970, 2000.
  14. ^ a b c Ono, Yoko (1964). Grapefruit.
  15. ^ Patricia Reaney (28 July 2013). "From Grapefruit to Acorn: Yoko Ono publishes book of 'instructional poems'". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 3 July 2013.

External links[edit]