Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Sunday, November 28, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Yayoi Kusama participated in the Venice Biennale as early as 1966, and her iconic installation Narcissus Garden created a sensation at the time. The schools of Colour Field painting and performance painting emerged in the post-World War II era of the United States, but Kusama did not follow the creative trends of the time, and instead confronted the world with her own artistic vision, bringing a new shock to New York at the time. In 1973, Kusama left New York and returned to Japan. At that time, the United States still didn't realise the importance of Kusama to the contemporary art scene. The first retrospective exhibition of Yayoi Kusama’s work spanning over forty years was held at the Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art in Fukuoka in 1987. In 1989, 'Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective' solo exhibition was held in the Center for International Contemporary Art in New York, providing an opportunity for the Western world to reconnect with her art. Since then, the exhibition has not only brought a deeper understanding of her art in Japan, but also renewed the world’s awareness of the importance of this Japanese female artist to post-war contemporary art.


    The year 1989 marked a significant turning point in Yayoi Kusama’s work, enabling her to gain public attention in the international art scene. Created at this moment of significance, the piece titled Flowers  (Lot 187) is set against a green background while the remaining space is filled in blue. The background is the iconic ‘Infinity Nets’ style known to Kusama’s works. The ‘Infinity Nets’ is a creative signature that spans six decades of Yayoi Kusama’s art career, from her studies in New York to the present day. The different textures of the netting have changed with the different periods of the artist’s work in a delicate and sophisticated manner. The ‘Infinity Nets’ in Flowers has a dense and delicate texture; set off by the green underlying colour of the borders, the white netting at the edges appears to be light yellow, creating a subtle contrast with the pure white netting in the remaining blue background and enriching the tonal variation of the lines.

    “I am a polka dot. You are also a polka dot. Another dot is a friend of that dot. The earth is a polka dot. The sun is the shape of a polka dot and the moon is the shape of a polka dot. The polka dot does not exist as a single being. The solidarity of totalitarianism has allowed the polka dot to elevate itself to the form of an independent individual for the first time.”  — Yayoi Kusama

    In the middle of the painting, black speckled shapes appear against the bottom layer, resembling splitting and moving cells. Division and infinite reproduction of cells are also an iconic expression of Yayoi Kusama’s works. The concept of ‘creating one from zero and then to infinity’ can be traced back to Group Zero, an artistic movement that was short-lived and briefly popular in Europe. At the centre of the painting is a distinctive lime-green pear, the subject of which is filled with a mesh of lines. The surface of the pear is surrounded by blossoming flowers. Yayoi Kusama comes from a family that owned a plant nursery and seed farms, thus making her familiar with plants and flowers since childhood. For her, the flower is symbolic and representative of her. Kusama once spoke of a terrifying vision she had as a child: ‘The polka dots and flowers that kept multiplying around me and kept attacking me, attaching themselves to my body and being absorbed into the body’. Since the late 1970s, Yayoi Kusama began to create a series of works that combined figurative, abstract and representational themes. What makes her works complex are the depiction of everyday objects such as fruits and flowers matched with a background filled with nets. However, in Flowers (Lot 187), not only does Kusama use the technique of ‘Infinity Nets’ to create a background filled with depth and colour changes, much like the idea of division and reproduction of cells, but this work is a combination of abstract and figurative themes – making it a masterpiece by Yayoi Kusama.


    In the early 1950s, Yayoi Kusama created an enormous number of drafts on paper, including images of seeds, flowers, microscopic creatures and sperm cells. She continued to explore and refine these themes over the following decades until now, with ‘Infinity Nets’ and ‘Polka Dots’ becoming her most famous and iconic motifs. In the 1960s, the ‘Infinity Nets’ was considered to be Kusama’s most important creation. On the auction market, records of this series have been set one after another. Created in the late 1980s, Infinity Nets (Lot 188) is an image of intertwined green tubes, which are filled with dense, overlapping red and yellow polka dots. For Yayoi Kusama, the dots represent cells and molecules that are the most basic components of life. They are also a signal from the universe and nature that creates a continuity between things. Following the principle of ‘from zero to one, and then everything is born’, a world of infinite reproduction is created. To interpret the painting in this perspective, the green lines in the painting are the walls of cells under a microscope, while the red and yellow dots are the molecules of cells that are writhing. The overlaying of the three primary colours is a clever way to create a visual impression of the red and yellow ‘polka dots’ moving slowly through the green ‘vessels’, revealing a lively and vigorous vitality. Between the green vessels are blue and purple net-like brush strokes. Infinity Nets is an ingenious fusion of the most important elements of Yayoi Kusama’s work: cell division, polka dots and infinity nets, creating a unique sense of movement and life journey in the distribution of colour and composition, making it truly a masterpiece that combines all the elements of Yayoi Kusama’s abstract creations.



    • Provenance

      Beyond Gallery, Taipei
      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 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 '"Flowers [in Kanji]" 1989 Yayoi Kusama' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
45.5 x 38 cm. (18 x 15 in.)
Painted in 1989, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by the artist’s studio.

Full Cataloguing

HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000 

Sold for HK$4,788,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

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

Hong Kong Auction 29 November 2021