Yayoi Kusama - Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Friday, May 31, 2024 | Phillips
  • “Pumpkins bring about poetic peace in my mind.
    Pumpkins talk to me.
    Pumpkins, Pumpkins, Pumpkins.”
    — Yayoi Kusama  

    Genesis of an Icon


    Yayoi Kusama’s lifelong journey into art is intertwined with her personal experiences, particularly her struggles with mental health and her unique perceptions of the world around her. Born into a conservative family in rural Japan, Kusama was exposed early on to the seed nurseries owned by her family, where she first encountered the natural shapes and forms that would permeate her work later on. It was in these fields that Kusama first found solace in the patterns of nature, particularly in pumpkins, which struck her with their intriguing bulbous forms and tessellated skins.


    From a young age, Kusama experienced vivid hallucinations which involves lights, auras and dots. These visions both terrified and fascinated her, leading her to seek refuge in art where she could express and process these experiences. This compulsive repetition of patterns in her work is not only a reflection of her hallucinatory experiences but also a therapeutic practice, acting as a way for her to exert control over her overwhelming visions by confining them within the canvas.



    Detail of the present lot



    Pumpkins, Nets, Dots


    The present lot stands as a quintessential representation of Kusama’s mature practice. The work captures the viewer’s attention at the first glance with its stark, vibrant, and contrasting colours as well as the hypnotic patterns. Rendered in an almost surreal shade of yellow, the background and the polka dots are in a striking deep black, contrasting life and oblivion.



    Most notably, the present lot encapsulates three most desirable Kusama elements: pumpkin as a subject, filled with polka dots, and rendered in an infinity-net background. The polka dots here are more than decorative, they are one of the mediums through which Kusama explores the concept of infinity. As the dots expand over and beyond the pumpkin’s form, they suggest a continuity that extends beyond the tangible world into the infinite. Kusama's use of the pumpkin—a humble, earthy vegetable often associated with growth and harvest—further imbues the painting with themes of life cycles, rebirth, and connectivity with nature.


    “I adore pumpkins.
    As my spiritual home since childhood,
    and with their infinite spirituality,
    they contribute to the peace of mankind across the world
    and to the celebration of humanity. And by doing so,
    they make me feel at peace.”
    — Yayoi Kusama


    All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, Yayoi Kusama, 2016. Artwork: 

    The crisp texture of the present lot, achieved through layers of thickly applied acrylic, adds a tactile dimension to the subject. The interactivity of her art and the command of her works upon viewers transcend the physical and emotional, which makes Kusama’s works ever so transformative. The pumpkin motif, as a result, acts as a portal through which one can explore the deeper questions of existence, reflecting Kusama’s lifelong fascination with the cosmic and the personal, the infinite, and the intimate.



    Enduring Influence and Lasting Legacy


    Following her voluntary admission into a psychiatric institution in the 1970s, the Center for international Contemporary Arts Retrospective in 1989 marked Kusama’s return to the international art stage. This was also the same decade in which she created a variety of pumpkin works. In 2000, when the present lot was created, she not only received the Minister of Education’s Art Encouragement Prize as well as the Foreign Minister’s Commendation in Japan, but also participated in the Biennale of Sydney in where she presented inflatable works at the Customs House.



    Kusama’s influence on contemporary art extends far beyond her iconic elements. Spanning over seven decades, her career has seen a constant innovation in pushing the boundaries of what art can be and do. Her commitment to art has never wavered, despite the hardships she encountered in her personal life, and her art certainly seeks to serve both as her connection to the world and her escape from it.



    Collector’s Digest


    One of the most prominent and prolific artists working today, Yayoi Kusama’s practice blends painting, installation, sculpture, and performance to powerful effect. After moving to the United States in 1958, she became a leading member of the New York avant-garde art scene. She returned to Japan in the 1970s, choosing to reside in a mental health facility and work in a studio during the daytime. Kusama’s largest retrospective in Asia, Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now, at the M+ Museum in Hong Kong ran from 12 November 2022 to 14 May 2023. The exhibition featured 3 new works, and over 200 works across various international collections, the M+ collection as well as the artist’s own collection. This retrospective also travelled to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. In 2023, Kusama collaborated with Louis Vuitton, which encompassed over 450 individual items. The collaboration involved giant statues of the artist outside of the boutiques, with the artist’s signature motif, painted dots as the recurring theme.

    • Provenance

      Keio Department Store, Tokyo
      Private Collection
      Private Collection (acquired from the above)
      Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 6 October 2022, lot 532
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • 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




signed, titled and dated 'Yayoi Kusama 2000 Pumpkin [in Kanji] on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
37.7 x 45.5 cm. (14 7/8 x 17 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2000, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by the artist's studio.

Full Cataloguing

HK$13,000,000 - 20,000,000 

Sold for HK$13,760,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2027

Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 31 May 2024