Yayoi Kusama - 24/7: Online Auction Hong Kong Thursday, October 8, 2020 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection
    K Auction, Seoul, 23 May 2018, lot 133
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Critically acclaimed as a towering figure in contemporary art, Yayoi Kusama is one of today’s most recognised and celebrated artists. Born in the Nagano Prefecture, Kusama experienced vivid hallucinations in her early childhood that the artist claims have haunted her since. In a process that Kusama has termed ‘Self Obliteration’, her visions are fuelled by moving and multiplying dots and patterns that gradually spread to engulf everything around her, including herself. Much of her oeuvre can be traced back to these obsessive neuroses and this sense of obliteration is something you see across her multidisciplinary works.

    Executed in 1979, Butterfly expands upon this concept through the spots and patterns that both intermingle and seemingly spill off the paper. At the centre of the composition is a lemon-yellow and green insect-like creature, rendered in delicately applied watercolour strokes. Evoking the work’s title, the insect is framed by curvaceous lines of blue that bear a resemblance to the shape of butterfly wings, drawing to mind the dramatic change a caterpillar must undergo as it transitions through its life cycle. As a highly symbolic creature in Japanese culture, butterflies or ‘chōchō’ are popularly considered to be recently departed spirits who have taken on the form of a butterfly in their journey to eternal life and peace. Having spent her life torn between Japan and the United States dealing with personal upheaval and bouts of mental instability, Kusama’s use of a butterfly motif can also be interpreted as a potent symbol for the artist’s own metamorphosis.

    Having been honoured with solo exhibitions at prestigious institutions across the world, Kusama continues to affirm her position as a leading contemporary artist with an upcoming retrospective at Gropius Bau, Berlin (September 2020, postponed to March 2021); as well as upcoming exhibitions at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. (2020, to be rescheduled); the New York Botanical Garden (2020, postponed to 2021); and the Tate Modern, London (2021, postponed to 2022).

  • 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



signed 'Yayoi Kusama' and stamped with the artist's seal upper left; further signed, titled and dated 'Butterfly [in Kanji] 1979 Yayoi Kusama' on the reverse
watercolour and pen on paperboard
image 26.5 x 23.5 cm. (10 3/8 x 9 1/4 in.)
frame 44.4 x 41.4 cm. (17 1/2 x 16 1/4 in.)

Executed in 1979, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity by the Kusama Studio.

HK$150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for HK$250,000

Contact Specialist

Delissa Handoko

Associate Specialist, Head of Online Sales, Hong Kong, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+852 2318 2013


24/7: Online Auction

Online Auction 9 - 19 October 2020