Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 16, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    The Artist
    Private Collection, United States
    Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1982

  • Catalogue Essay

    Created during her first decade in New York, Yayoi Kusama’s Accumulation by Space (No.62.CO.), 1962 is one of the artist’s earliest investigations of three pillars that define her practice: repetition, accumulation and obliteration. After leaving Tokyo for the U.S. in 1957, the artist quickly gained critical acclaim. Following the success of her first solo exhibitions, Kusama began to explore mediums other than painting in the early 1960s. The present work is a unique example of her rare collages, others of which are housed in institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Comprised of found, red-rimmed oval stickers on canvas, Accumulation by Space (No.62.CO.) draws the viewer into a mass of abstraction. Revealing the surface underneath throughout parts of the composition, we are invited into Kusama’s meticulous working method, allowing us a glimpse into the mental fixations that guide her process.

    Despite rave reviews for her Infinity Nets paintings first shown in 1959, Kusama struggled financially throughout the early 1960s. It was during this time that she turned to unconventional materials such as stickers and stamps. Soon after, she used three-dimensional egg cartons to create relief-like works that served as an immediate precursor to her sculptures made of canvas-covered pouches filled with cotton, also called Accumulations. Diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder only three months after completing her first Accumulation sculpture in 1961, it became clear that Kusama’s repeated masses, whether composed of paint, stickers, egg cartons or soft sacks, were a means of coping with her personal neuroses.

    Working at the intersection of Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism and the beginnings of the Pop movement, Kusama occupied a unique place in the New York art scene. Her collages and sculptures were often erroneously associated with Andy Warhol’s concurrent, gridded silkscreens of consumer labels and dollar bills, as well as Donald Judd’s orderly sculptural installations. Despite sharing a studio space with Judd, Kusama rejected his use of repetition as a comment on aesthetic and instead relied on it to confront her battle with mental illness. Similarly, Kusama disagreed with Warhol’s ideologies behind consumerism and art, creating work that was diametrically opposed to his mass production techniques. As she avowed, “Anything mass produced robs us of our freedom. We, not the machine, should be in control” (Yayoi Kusama, quoted in Louise Neri and Takaya Goto, eds., Yayoi Kusama, New York, 2012, p. 62). Speaking of the importance of Kusama’s collage process, Alexandra Munroe describes, “the obsessive accumulation of actual things, reinforced by the activity of pasting each element down, draws attention to the fevered mode of their creation; they become intense and pointedly personal in a manner alien to the cool detachment of a silkscreen print” (Alexandra Munroe, Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama, 1958-1968, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1998, p. 16).

    While Judd and Warhol used mechanized materials and methods, in her Accumulations Kusama painstakingly adhered found objects to canvas, household furniture and kitchen implements. One of the first instances the artist used the term “accumulation” was in reference to her earliest Infinity Nets paintings, articulating them as “unfoldings of macrocosmic space based on accumulation of microcosmic light, as if under an unconsciousness which is both simple…and yet complicated” (Yayoi Kusama, quoted in “Ona Hitori kokusai gada o yuku”, Geijutsu schincho, Tokyo, May 1961, n.p.). The term would not appear again until the collages, in which she turned accumulated paint into accumulated objects – the title of the works now explicitly referencing Kusama’s very process. By 1966, the artist reached international prominence after her installation of Narcissus Garden at the 33rd Venice Biennale, an accumulation of reflective silver spheres placed outside of the Italian Pavilion. In contrast to the present work, which represents Kusama’s own subconscious, Narcissus Garden shaped the viewers’ experiences, embodied through the aggregation of their own reflections.

    Over the subsequent decade in New York, Kusama moved beyond collage and sculpture and began documenting her process through performance. This concept helped to transform accumulation into obliteration, a term first used in her 1967 film Kusama’s Self Obliteration in which she covered the space around her with polka dots. This concept would be revisited throughout her prolific oeuvre, most recently in her reprised project The Obliteration Room featured in the 2017-2018 exhibition Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors beginning at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. Over 50 years later, this installation recalls the exact process employed in Accumulation by Space (No.62.CO.), allowing visitors to place stickers on blank walls and furniture. The white space between these accumulated stickers recalls the present work from 1962, demonstrating the cyclical nature of Kusama’s practice. “The positive and negative become one and consolidate my expression. That is when I achieve obliteration” (Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, Chicago, 2011, p. 47).

  • 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

Property of an East Coast Institution


Accumulation by Space (No.62.CO.)

signed and dated "1962 YAYOI KUSAMA" on two stickers lower left; further signed, titled and dated "YAYOI KUSAMA 1962 NO. 62. CO." on the reverse; further titled "ACCUM ACCMILLATION BY SPACE" on the stretcher
stickers on primed canvas
61 x 67 3/4 in. (154.9 x 172.1 cm.)
Executed in 1962, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by the Yayoi Kusama studio.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $2,060,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 May | On View at 432 and 450 Park Avenue