Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Sunday, November 25, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Max Lang Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, Milan
    Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2010)
    Sotheby's Hong Kong, 10 June 2014, lot 203
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Kusama’s pumpkins rose to global prominence in 1993 during her participation in the Venice Biennale. The artist presented Mirror Room (Pumpkin), a sprawling mirrored room filled with small pumpkin sculptures, reminiscent of an immense, teeming pumpkin field. Painted three years prior to this, the present early work showcases Kusama’s signature depiction of the pumpkin in an immaculate and precise web of jet-black dots against a crisp yellow bodice. In an unusual and rare instance for the artist, the pumpkin floats on a plain white background, commanding our attention for the titular pumpkin, as if in an attempt to draw in the audience in a powerful feat of hypnotism, perhaps not dissimilar to her later props placed in Mirror Room (Pumpkin).

    Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkin motif is central to an oeuvre deeply entrenched in her childhood memories, and remains a trope that has featured extensively and consistently throughout the artist’s practice. As she nostalgically recalls, “The first time I ever saw a pumpkin was when I was in elementary school and went with my grandfather to visit a big seed-harvesting ground…and there it was: a pumpkin the size of a man’s head… It immediately began speaking to me in a most animated manner” (quoted in Infinity Net, Yayoi Kusama (translated by Ralph McCarthy), London, 2011, p. 75). Indeed, the gourd’s impression on the young Kusama’s mind was so strong that it appeared in the artist’s works as early as in the 1940s, depicted simply in light sketches, during her training in nihonga (“Japanese style painting”) at the Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts. They were formally engrained in her artistic production since the 1980s and 1990s, and her fondness for them has not diminished in the least.

    Since its very first introduction into Kusama’s life and first forays onto the international art stage, the pumpkin will forever remain the most iconic extension, mascot, and metaphor for the artist herself.

  • 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 octogenarian who still lives—somewhat famously—in a psychiatric institution in Tokyo and steadfastly paints in her immaculate 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 '"Pumpkin [in Japanese]" yayoi kusama 1990' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
22.7 x 15.8 cm. (8 7/8 x 6 1/4 in.)
Painted in 1990, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by the Yayoi Kusama Studio.

HK$1,400,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for HK$2,000,000

Contact Specialist
Jonathan Crockett
Deputy Chairman, Asia and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia
+852 2318 2023

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department
+852 2318 2011

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 November 2018