Yoko: Ceiling Painting (Yes)

Yoko Ceiling Painting (Yes)

By Madeline Bocaro 

© Madeline Bocaro, 2016. No part of this site may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without permission of the copyright owner.

This is an excerpt from my Yoko Ono biography…

An all-embracing look at Yoko Ono’s life and work, in stunning detail.

Read all about it, see the reviews and

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On November 7, 1966 John Lennon found his stairway to heaven – a ladder leading up to a canvas hung on the ceiling, with a magnifying glass hanging down on the end of a chain.

When John reached the top of the ladder, he looked through the spyglass and read a word written in tiny letters. This simple word, ‘Yes’ became his koan, his mantra and his path to freedom.

This was the day he met Yoko Ono on the eve of her first art show in London at Indica gallery (before the opening), and this was her art piece called Ceiling Painting.

“You’re on this ladder – you feel like a fool, you could fall any minute – and you look through it and it just says ‘YES,’” John told David Sheff in 1980. “Well, all the so-called avant-garde art at the time, and everything that was supposedly interesting was all negative; this smash-the-piano-with-a-hammer, break-the-sculpture, boring, negative crap. It was all anti-, anti-, anti-. Anti-art, anti-establishment. And just that ‘YES’ made me stay in a gallery full of apples and nails, instead of just walking out saying, ‘I’m not gonna buy any of this crap.’”

– John

“(When I made the Yes painting in 1966) I was in a totally difficult situation in my life and I thought, what I need is a Yes, and so I put the word on the ceiling. I never thought it was about to change my whole life by 180 degrees.

It was that Yes painting that brought John into the gallery. He saw it and said great. Because the thing is that, unbeknown to everyone, John was going through some hard times too and feeling alone. I was feeling totally alone too.”

– Yoko Ono, Twitter

Beatlefan: I met a man in London and he said, You know that Yoko Ono, she lived in the same building as I, and I had a little stepladder that I used to get into my apartment with…”

Yoko: I remember.

Beatlefan “…I went there one day and it was gone, and I found a little not under the door that said, “Please come see your stepladder at the Indica gallery” … and I went there and it was bloody painted white.” Did you do that, did you steal someone’s stepladder?

Yoko: “No, well, we didn’t steal. We borrowed a stepladder. When the exhibition was opened, I couldn’t find a ladder. We just painted that ladder white, you know. I think some of the gallery people said, “Well we can pay for this, it’s just a ladder, isn’t it? Aren’t you happy it’s in an art exhibition?” But he wasn’t very happy about that. He was saying, “No, I would like it back and I don’t like it white” and all that, you know (laughing). We paid for it, but it was very strange. I think the gallery people thought he’d be delighted that suddenly his ladder was an art piece.”

– Beatlefan Vol. 6

© Madeline Bocaro 2016. No part of these written materials may be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated or reduced to any electronic medium or machine-readable form, in whole or in part, without prior written consent Madeline Bocaro. Any other reproduction in any form without the permission of Madeline Bocaro is prohibited. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without prior written permission of Madeline Bocaro.

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This is an excerpt from my Yoko Ono biography

In Your Mind – The Infinite Universe of Yoko Ono

An all-embracing look at Yoko Ono’s life, music and art – in stunning detail.

Visit the In Your Mind website and subscribe!


Contact: conceptualbooks@icloud.com

Yoko describing Ceiling Painting:


CeilingPaintingTweet-April 2019


Indica book store wrapping paper designed by Paul McCartney:


Also see:

A great mash-up: Ceiling Painting vs. Give Peace a Chance!


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