Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Hong Kong Friday, October 6, 2023 | Phillips
  • Yayoi Kusama is a name that is widely known to all and she has endured among the most emblematic and iconic artists of the late twentieth century and beyond. Throughout the course of her prolific career, Kusama has been associated with artistic movements such as Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Pop Art, and the ZERO group. Despite these attributions, Kusama’s multidisciplinary practice over the past decades has demonstrated that her creative output is not merely bound by a singular categorisation but rather should be celebrated as an eclectic process.


    Intimate in scale yet visually complex, the present work reveals a combination of Kusama’s main pillars that define her praxis: polka dots, infinity nets, and the pumpkin. Rendered against a sprawling web of the artist’s most iconic black and yellow infinity nets, the artist has meticulously painted her fruits in bold colours with the use of striated dots. As a result, forming a hypotonic illusion whereby viewers are left in a trance between Kusama’s figurative and abstract representations.


    Born in Matsumoto where her family had earned their living cultivating plant seeds in a nursery, Kusama’s earliest formative years have been defined by her fascination of the natural world. Drawing from her affinity with nature – in particular vegetal and floral life – pumpkins and fruit baskets continue to occupy a special place in her iconography and serves as a recurring leitmotif within Kusama’s works. Rather than being confined to an individual basket here in the present work, the artist has radically arranged the positioning of her objects to reflect a perfectly balanced constellation of fruits and vegetables – bestowing upon viewers a brilliant spectacle of their five-a-day. Additionally, the striking contrast of natural forms juxtaposed against a geometric background illustrates Kusama’s technical ability in mastering spatial relationships.


    Detail of the present lot



    “I have been creating artistic forms till this day as a means to explore the proof of my living and overcome my mental illness.”
     Yayoi Kusama


    The title of the present work, A Field of Phantom overtly stems from Kusama’s mental health roots. The artist has frequently described her own creative process as a necessary escape from a lifetime of mental illness, as she began to experience vivid hallucinations of the fields around her home in Japan during her childhood. Surrounded by infinite rows of kabocha squash which her family often grew, Kusama is known to personify them by describing these bulbous forms as being morphed terrifyingly into a speckled pattern that threatened to engulf her. Although her psychological problems might be considered as traumatising, the subjects rendered in the present work seem to hover in a jovial manner where the artist portrays them almost as caricatures dancing away to the beat of their own drum.


    Through A Field of Phantom, Kusama’s past can be viewed as a double-edged sword and understood as a way for her to be reengaging with and re-enacting this overwhelming experience. She reappropriates it to be shared with the viewer as an indication that perhaps nature, mental health, and the body are inexorably integrated. A Field of Phantom is the epitome of the artist’s individualistic expression via which she achieves self-obliteration through repetition. Thus, it stands as a unique and rare masterpiece to appear at auction.


    Having been previously named as ‘the world’s most popular artist’, Kusama continues to enthral the global audience with her creativity and although small in size, the present work certainly remains as one of the artist’s highly coveted paintings by collectors. To Kusama, these life forms embody patience, peace, power, and fertility – thus enabling the present work to operate as a self-portrait of herself. It is also important to note that A Field of Phantom was painted only two years after the artist was nominated to represent her country in the 1993 Venice Biennale, where she chose to centralise on the theme of the pumpkin. Therefore, it can be understood that Kusama was already well-versed at depicting pumpkins as her subject at the time, marking this as an exceptionally personal and mature work by the artist to date.

    • Provenance

      Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo
      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.

      View More Works


A Field of Phantom

signed, titled and dated 'Yayoi Kusama "A Field of Phantom" [in Japanese] 1995 yayoi KUSAMA' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
16 x 23 cm. (6 1/4 x 9 in.)
Painted in 1995, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by the artist's studio.

Full Cataloguing

HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for HK$4,445,000

Contact Specialist

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 7 October 2023