Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Thursday, December 3, 2020 | Phillips

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  • "Amidst the agony of flowers, the present never ends." —Yayoi Kusama

    In 1978, Japanese icon Yayoi Kusama penned a book of poetry on her experiences battling depression during the time she lived in New York, entitled  Manhattan Suicide Addict. She had attempted suicide twice, overwhelmed by the death of her friend and once partner, painter Joseph Cornell, and depressed by her career battles in New York, which saw her ideas stolen by Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg who were then critically lauded for the same ideas. Kusama relocated to Tokyo in 1973, but her return to Japan heralded yet more heartache: “When I returned to Japan, they treated me like a very scandalous presence. All the journalists were very backwards and they wanted to portray me in a negative way.”i She was forced to re-start her career from scratch. Another blow followed in 1974, when Kusama lost her father, which brought back memories of her traumatic childhood. She became an art dealer, but her business folded after several years. In poor health, Kusama checked herself into a facility for the mentally ill in 1975, becoming a permanent resident after 1977. 


    Manhattan Suicide Addict, 1978

     Despite immense uphill battle against her circumstances, an immense creativity flowered, with Kusama turning her attention to new media like ceramics, watercolours, pastels, collage, and poetry. In a 2016 interview she said, “I had dark days and unfortunate times, but I overcame them with the power of art.”ii Works like The Burial Day in Flower Garden became an outlet on Kusama’s darkest days, symbolic of the purging of her childhood traumas, hallucinations, and rejection by the art world. Kusama’s sorrows and mental illness became a point of empowerment. The Burial Day in Flower Garden encapsulates this symbolic rebirth of Kusama, like a heart from which flowers and new life spring.


    Trailer for Kusama: Infinity (2018)


    i Yayoi Kusama, quoted in Heather Lenz, Kusama: Infinity (2018)

    ii Yayoi Kusama, quoted in Claire Marie Healy, ‘Yayoi Kusama: ‘I overcame dark days with the power of art’’, Dazed Digital, 26 May 2016, online 

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, Japan
      Acquired from the above 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 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.

      View More Works


The Burial Day in Flower Garden

signed and dated 'Yayoi Kusama 1978' upper left; further signed, titled and dated '1978 Yayoi Kusama [in English and Kanji] "The Burial Day in Flower Garden [in Kanji]"' on the reverse
enamel and ink on paperboard
27.2 x 24.2 cm. (10 3/4 x 9 1/2 in.)
Executed in 1978, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by the Yayoi Kusama studio.

Full Cataloguing

HK$150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for HK$327,600

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

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

Hong Kong Auction 4 December 2020