Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | Phillips
  • “My nets grew beyond myself and beyond the canvases I was covering with them. They began to cover the walls, the ceiling, and finally the whole universe.” 
    — Yayoi Kusama 


    Painted in 2004, INFINITY-NETS (OPRT) is an exquisite example from Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s ground-breaking series of Infinity Nets. Veiled in a shimmering lattice of intricately applied loops, dots, and curls, the vibrant rose and pearl coloured canvas mesmerises with ethereal radiance that beckons us closer, enveloping the viewer in poetic splendour. The delicacies of the contours subtly unfold across the painting like billowing cotton-candy clouds, as Kusama melds the observable with the spiritual to obliterate the picture plane into boundlessness, perfectly epitomising the artist’s notion of the infinity.


    A Dot in the Universe



    Gerhard Richter, Carmine, 1994


    For her all-over abstraction of colour and texture that teases our sense of spatial depth, as masterfully showcased in the ebbs and flows of the present painting’s netted formation, a comparison can be made to the layered Abstraktes Bilder works of Gerhard Richter (see for example, Lot 16 - Gerhard Richter, Kerzenschein (Candle-light) (1984)) . Both artists bring the technique of painting to the forefront of the composition, following their own distinctive method of mark-making. But whereas Richter plays with the notions of intent versus accident, minimising the role of the artist’s hand through his squeegee tool that gives form to chance, Kusama’s repetitive approach of arching nets and polka-dots is meticulously precise.


    Having always insisted that the process of creation is integral to the significance of the works, Kusama employs the minimal gesture of a single touch of the brush to cover her Infinity Net canvases in their entirety. Working fixedly for up to 50 or 60 hours at a time, she lays down her loops one-by-one with the canvas placed flat on a table-top or other surface. As such, it is impossible for her to see the whole of the painting while she is working, thereby elevating the importance of her mark-making as she is denied of the ability to respond to or alter the composition as it comes into its complete form.



    Lee Krasner, Another Storm, 1963
    Collection Barbican Centre, London. © 2021 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


    Contrasting the expansive and passionate gestures of the Abstract Expressionists (see for example, Lee Krasner, Another Storm (1963)), the labour-intensive monotony of obsessive, small strokes in Kusama’s Infinity Nets can be considered almost machine-like in execution. And yet, there is a resoundingly emotive power evoked by the intimacy of her scalloped curves that spread across the canvas in seemingly infinite rippling arcs, arising from Kusama’s ultimate desire to subsume individual ego and become one with the universe through what she coins ‘self-obliteration.’


    Kusama and the Infinite


    Born in Matsumoto City, Japan, in 1929, Kusama’s crucial years of early adolescence were plagued by hallucinations the artist began experiencing at the age of 10 of fields of dots that would engulf everything around her, including herself. To cope with her fears, the artist sought therapeutic relief in painting her early ink works ‘of tiny dots and pen drawings of endless and unbroken chains of graded cellular forms or peculiar structures that resembled magnified sections of plant stalks’ i. These formative mediations on infinity set the groundwork for what would become the core of Kusama’s artistry and person – a unique aesthetic framework that is both recognised and celebrated around the world.


    In June 1958, Kusama left for New York, seeking to escape her troubled family life and with the aspiration to ‘grab everything that went on in the city and become a star’ ii. She debuted her inaugural Infinity Net canvases just 18 months later, at the Brata Gallery during her first solo exhibition in the city which was an immediate success, garnering wide critical acclaim including that of Donald Judd who both purchased a work and published a raving review.



    The artist in her New York studio, 1958-1959



    Celebrated for challenging the muscularity of the New School painters who were dominating the city’s art scene at the time, Judd later reflected on Kusama’s innovative work: ‘If you compare it to almost anybody at that point, it’s newer and more original. You could strike out with Pollock, Newman, Rothko, etc., Reinhardt. The only person you could kind of find that might be a little bit close was, for a brief time, Frank Stella. But, actually, I think she’s somewhat more original than Frank. And clearly she has more durability than Frank’ iii.


    “I put my whole life on dots and wanted to rebel against history.” 
    — Yayoi Kusama



    Frank Stella, Delaware Crossing, 1967
    Collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
    © 2021 Frank Stella / ARS, NY 


    Created almost half a century after she began her renowned Infinity Nets body of works, INFINITY-NETS (OPRT) exemplifies Kusama’s matured approach. Differing to her early oil paint iterations, the present work is rendered in glimmering sapphire-pink and white acrylic paint on canvas – owing to a pivotal shift of medium the artist undertook in the early 1980s. Whilst this transition nods to Kusama’s early nihonga water-based experimentations, the quicker drying time of acrylic reflects the artist’s relentless endurance to make sense of the world and herself, through her art, with remarkable ferocity. As esteemed critic Roberta Smith praises of these later paintings, ‘they have an automatic yet meditative quality and the unconscious physical energy of handwriting, attesting not just to the specialness of touch but to its inevitability.’ iv




    Yayoi Kusama, Repetition, 1999
    Lot 19 – Phillips Hong Kong in Association with Poly Auction Evening Sale, 30 November 2021
    Estimate HK$ 15,000,000 - 20,000,000 / US$ 1,920,000 - 2,560,000



    Though Kusama’s compulsive need to self-obliterate through ritualistic replication is not unique to her Infinity Nets, instead forming the backbone of her entire multidisciplinary oeuvre (see for example, Lot 19 – Yayoi Kusama, Repetition (1999)), her Net paintings are singular in that they openly display the process of their making. From detail to detail, our gaze both pauses and whirls around INFINITY-NETS (OPRT) endlessly, as foreground and background interweave to an almost dizzying effect. Though constrained by the borders of the canvas, the majestically vibrant net feels to expand beyond its frame, wall, and into the room, immersing the viewer as we too, fall into Kusama’s cosmic universe.


    “With just one polka dot, nothing can be achieved. In the universe, there is the sun, the moon, the earth, and hundreds of millions of stars. All of us live in the unfathomable mystery and infinitude of the universe.” 
    — Yayoi Kusama 

    Collector’s Digest


    Universally recognised as one of the most important artists of our time, Kusama’s work forms part of extensive museum collections throughout the world. This includes 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.


    Having been honoured with extensive solo exhibitions throughout her career, including the Japanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1993 and a large retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2012, Kusama continues to affirm her position as a leading contemporary artist. She has recently presented a retrospective at the Gropius Bau in Berlin (23 April – 15 August 2021), and an exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden (10 April – 31 October 2021).


    Kusama currently has a solo exhibition at the Tate Modern in London (18 May 2021 – 12 June 2022), and the Rubell Museum in Miami (18 November 2020 – 12 December 2021). An upcoming show is also being planned at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. (postponed from 2020, new dates to be announced).



    Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, London, 2016, n.p.

    ii Yayoi Kusama quoted in Akira Tatehata, Yayoi Kusama, London, 2000, p. 11

    iii Donald Judd, quoted in Andy Battaglia, ‘Kusama’s Art, Friendship, and Predilection for Cat Milk’, ARTnews, 16 November 2017, online

    iv Roberta Smith, ‘Yayoi Kusama and the Amazing Polka-Dotted, Selfie-Made Journey to Greatness’, The New York Times, 3 November 2017, online

    • Provenance

      Robert Miller Gallery, New York
      Collection of Ginny Williams, Denver
      Christie's, New York, 12 May 2010, lot 226
      Private Collection, USA
      Phillips, New York, 8 November 2015, lot 1
      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

Property from a Distinguished Private Collection



signed, titled and dated '"OPRT" Yayoi Kusama 2004 "INFINITY NETS"' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
193 x 193 cm. (75 7/8 x 75 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2004, this work will be accompanied by a registration card issued by the artist's studio.

Full Cataloguing

HK$15,000,000 - 25,000,000 

Sold for HK$22,635,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2021