Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Saturday, May 25, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Nishimura Gallery, Tokyo
    Private Collection, Tokyo (acquired from the above in 1975)
    Thence by descent to the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Tokyo, Nishimura Gallery, Yayoi Kusama: Message of death from Hades, 1-13 December 1975

  • Catalogue Essay

    “In December 1975 I held my first solo show since my return to Japan, Message of Death from Hades, at the Nishimura Gallery in Tokyo. It featured a large number of collages.” Yayoi Kusama in Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, London, 2013

    People I've Known, People I've Loved

    Returning to Japan in 1973, depleted by the depression of a declining career in New York due to the changing political climate in America, Yayoi Kusama relocated to Tokyo and was forced to essentially reboot her career. In stark contrast to her wild New York happenings and controversial phallic sculptures, this period of her life became a sombre reflection on grief following the death of her partner and close friend, Joseph Cornell. It was during this time that Kusama began intensively creating collages, acting as a memento mori, examining the transient nature of life and inevitability of death. These reflected her projected persona, a representation of her physical appearance and psyche at the time. Such dark collages may appear at odds with the rest of her body of work, yet like the present lots My Soul Goes to the Sky and Souls of the Earth that Inhabit the Galaxy, they offer a glimpse into an important period in the artist’s life.

    Kusama first met Cornell in 1962 through an art dealer, and the two formed an unlikely bond, a passionate yet platonic relationship, one that lasted many years. Infatuated by her beauty, Cornell began showering her with endless letters and poetry, gifting her with his famously exclusive boxes filled with found objects, pages from old books, pictures of birds and butterflies and dime-store trinkets. Carrying Cornell’s box filled with his own collage materials back to Japan, Kusama began assembling her collages using some of the materials he had left her, as an intimate tribute to her dearest friend. Both works are at once poetic and quietly introspective, hinting at unreachable realms beyond their surfaces.

    Exhibited at Kusama’s first solo show since her return to Japan, Souls of the Earth that Inhabit the Galaxy offers a particularly poignant image that recalls her longing for unbounded freedom; reminiscent of her relationship with Cornell while also incorporating subtle traces of her ubiquitous Infinity Net motif.

  • 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


Souls of the Earth Breathing in the Galaxy

signed and dated 'Yayoi Kusama 1975' upper right; further signed, titled and dated 'Yayoi Kusama 1975 "Souls of the Earth Breathing in the Galaxy [in Japanese]"' on the reverse
collage, pastel, ink, cloth on paper
38 x 53 cm. (14 7/8 x 20 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1975, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by the artist's studio.

HK$450,000 - 650,000 

Sold for HK$1,000,000

Contact Specialist
Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019