Yayoi Kusama - Modern & Contemporary Art Day Sale Hong Kong Saturday, June 1, 2024 | Phillips
  • Executed in 2001, the present work illustrates Yayoi Kusama’s ongoing fascination with the pumpkin motif and monochromatic polka dots. Rendered in vibrant hues of rich, golden yellow and ebony black, Pumpkin pulsates with rhythmic dynamism and palpable energy, inviting viewers into Kusama’s vast universe of the infinite.


    “I love pumpkins because of their humorous form, warm feeling, and a human-like quality.” 
    —Yayoi Kusama


    As early as 1948, Yayoi Kusama began painting the pumpkin motif, a theme that holds personal significance for the artist. Growing up in Japan, Kusama had a childhood immersed in the world of her family’s seed nursery. The pumpkin was chosen as a subject for its “human-like” shape and its capacity to evoke humour. Initially, Kusama approached the motif in a more realistic and naturalistic style, reflecting her early artistic explorations. From the 1950s onwards, Kusama ventured boldly into more radical and conceptual experiments, incorporating abstract patterns on more diverse mediums. The pumpkin, deeply rooted in Kusama's personal experiences, became an enduring presence in her art, manifesting in paintings, sculptures, and mesmerising mirrored infinity rooms. The repetitive appearances of the pumpkin motif in Kusama's artworks have evoked a sense of frenzied excitement among viewers, solidifying its status as one of the most recognisable elements of her art.


    Another iconic element of Yayoi Kusama’s artistic practice is the abundant presence of dark black dots. Contrasting against the vividly flattened yellow pumpkin, these dots create a captivating and hallucinatory surface. The effect is further intensified by the interplay of intricate black lines forming a web-like pattern around the pumpkin. Kusama developed this interstellar style after she moved to New York City in 1958, first established in her widely celebrated Infinity Net paintings featuring a surrounding net of lines. The artist’s use of patterns within these works reflects the hallucinogenic episodes that she had around the age of 10. Implementing repetitions and infinity as a tool for annihilation, Kusama creates the ability to lose oneself in the vastness of this constructed universe.


    Within the context of the 1960s, Kusama’s highly stylised visuality served as a conscious challenge to some contemporary trends in New York, such as Abstract Expressionism. Her identity as an Asian female artist working predominantly in the city’s male dominated art world pushed her, quite literally, to the outskirts of the art scene. The use of the pumpkin and the endless dot motif contributed to Kusama’s status as the poster child for the New York-based Outsider Art movement. Further showcasing Kusama’s revolutionary spirit is her 1965 installation, Infinity Mirror Room-Phalli’s Field, in which she stands, defiantly, in a bright red unitard, a colour strongly associated with power, amongst a floor covered in red-spotted-phallic objects.


    “I cannot imagine how I will be classified after my death. It feels good to be an outsider.”
    —Yayoi Kusama


    Over the decades, Kusama has achieved widespread recognition in the international art scene. Variations of her pumpkin works have been acquired by renowned institutions around the world such as the Benesse Art Site, Naoshima, Japan where the first and largest Pumpkin sculpture stands attesting to the sustained significance of the pumpkin figure. Kusama also brought Pumpkin to the XLV Esposizione International d’Art 1993: La Biennale di Venezia, Punti Cardinali dell’Arte. To this day, Kusama persistently paints pumpkins as part of her repertoire. She explains, “My desire to create works of pumpkins still continues. I have enthusiasm as if I were still a child.”



    Collector’s Digest


    •  Kusama’s oeuvre is highly influential, guided by unparalleled creativity. Her works are widely collected by prestigious international museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. 

    • Throughout her career, Kusama has been honoured with extensive solo exhibitions, including a large retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2012. More recently in 2022, M+, Hong Kong, celebrated the artist’s near century-long journey with the exhibition Yayoi Kusama: 1945 to Now, marking this as the largest retrospective of the artist in Asia outside of Japan.

    • Provenance

      GRE-Gallery, Tokyo
      Private Collection, Austria
      Phillips, London, 4 March 2022, lot 125
      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.

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signed, titled and dated 'Yayoi Kusama 2001 Pumpkin [in Japanese]' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
22.9 x 16.2 cm. (9 x 6 3/8 in.)
Painted in 2001, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by the artist's studio.

Full Cataloguing

HK$3,000,000 - 4,000,000 

Sold for HK$3,556,000

Contact Specialist

Anastasia Salnikoff
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2014

Modern & Contemporary Art Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 1 June 2024