Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 26, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection
    Sotheby's, New York, 24 February 1995, lot 435
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Yayoi Kusama created Untitled (Silver Basket) in 1963-1964, just a few years after moving into a new studio on the floor below a working space occupied by Donald Judd. With Judd and many other reputable artists as close and supportive colleagues, Kusama was very much embedded in the New York avant-garde scene by this time. Emerging from her obsession with endlessly repeating shapes characteristic of her Infinity Nets paintings, Kusama extended her artistic practice into sculpture for the first time, assembling three-dimensional objects covered in multiplying forms. The present lot belongs to Kusama’s Accumulations sculptures, a body of works that feature hand-sewn phallic protrusions growing out of the surfaces of everyday objects associated with the domestic sphere ranging from furniture to clothing and accessories. The proliferation of duplicating forms can be read as a visualisation of Kusama’s fervent attempt to nullify her anxiety and fear of sex.

    Untitled (Silver Basket) radically transforms an ordinary container into an absurd and threatening object made ineffectual by the infestation of disturbing silver bulges. Providing a framework and visual vocabulary to understand Kusama’s eerie work, Sigmund Freud defines uncanny sensations as a result of 'a hidden, familiar thing that has undergone repression and then emerged from it,' something that leads us back to an object or idea long known to us (Sigmund Freud, 'The Uncanny,' Germany, 1919, p. 15). Thus, by taking a quotidian object, such as a basket, and drastically altering its appearance and functionality, Kusama toys with the ambiguous area between the familiar and the unfamiliar, consequently breeding the uncanny. Several photographs taken of the artist in her studio leaning, sitting and laying on her Accumulation sculptures stress the creepily contradicting elements of the stuffed phalli as they make contact with the artist’s body: the plush filling juxtaposing the intrusive shapes, the facade of inanimateness opposing the resemblance to something alive and pervasive like infectious bacteria (published in Francis Morris, ed. Yayoi Kusama, London, 2012 pp. 72-73).

    By the time of Kusama’s 1964 exhibition in New York, Driving Image Show, Kusama had created enough of these sculptures to encompass an entire environment, signaling the onset of an entirely new mode for the artist, paving a path for her future forays into making full-scale immersive installations. Kusama declares, “my Aggregation-Sculpture… arises from a deep, driving compulsion to realise in visible form the repetitive image inside of me. When this image is given freedom, it overflows the limits of time and space. People have said that [it] presents an irresistible force that goes by its own momentum once it has started” (Yayoi Kusama, “Interview with Gordon Brown,” Yayoi Kusama, London, 2000, p. 104). Untitled (Silver Basket) asserts that even the miniature, most commonplace objects fail to escape Kusama’s compulsive practice of repetition, obsessive visions and psychological states. This body of sculptural works comprising Kusama’s first exploration of immersive spaces serves as a key precursor to the Infinity Mirror Rooms that she would unveil at the 1966 Venice Biennale.

  • Artist Biography

    Yayoi Kusama


    Named "the world's most popular artist" in 2015, it's not hard to see why Yayoi Kusama continues to dazzle contemporary art audiences globally. From her signature polka dots—"fabulous," she calls them—to her mirror-and-light Infinity Rooms, Kusama's multi-dimensional practice of making art elevates the experience of immersion. To neatly pin an artistic movement onto Kusama would be for naught: She melds and transcends the aesthetics and theories of many late twentieth century movements, including Pop Art and Minimalism, without ever taking a singular path.


    As an nonagenarian who still lives in Tokyo and steadfastly paints in her studio every day, Kusama honed her punchy cosmic style in New York City in the 1960s. During this period, she staged avant-garde happenings, which eventually thrust her onto the international stage with a series of groundbreaking exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in the 1980s and the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993. She continues to churn out paintings and installations at inspiring speed, exhibiting internationally in nearly every corner of the globe, and maintains a commanding presence on the primary market and at auction.

    View More Works


Untitled (Silver Basket)

signed 'KUSAMA' on a sticker affixed to the bottom
mixed media (sewn stuffed fabric, paint, tub)
26.5 x 68 x 37.5 cm. (10 3/8 x 26 3/4 x 14 3/4 in.)
Executed in 1963-1964, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Yayoi Kusama Studio.

HK$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for HK$1,250,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 27 November 2016