Yayoi Kusama - Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Tuesday, May 14, 2024 | Phillips

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  • Evoking a cosmic sense of boundlessness, Nets in the Night (TPXZZOT) radiates as a celestial marvel from Yayoi Kusama’s iconic series. This vast canvas employs the artist’s signature visual idiom of endlessly repeating dots and is exemplary of the Infinity Nets in its expansive scale, impasto brushwork, and varying density of knots. At the same time, however, the painting is distinguished from this body of work by its subdued palette and considered marks. While many of the Infinity Nets feature vibrant colors and looser brushwork, Nets in the Night features a shimmering expanse of velvety black circles which have been painstakingly painted in a dense mesh across a moon-white ground. It transforms the confines of the square canvas into an exercise in obliteration: pulsating rhythms draw in the viewer’s gaze, which traces fugitive connections between one patch of darkness to another. Kusama has infused the present work with a compelling vitality, reflecting her persistent preoccupation with accumulation, seriality, and the infinite—an ethos that defines her artistic practice.

    “My net paintings were very large canvases without composition—without beginning, end or center. The entire canvas would be occupied by a monochromatic net. This endless repetition causes a kind of dizzying, empty, hypnotic feeling.”
    —Yayoi Kusama

    In Nets in the Night, the artist’s notion of “infinity” is extended beyond a mere association with the repetition of visual forms to take on a more directly cosmological significance. The surface evokes an astronomical panorama of a radiant night sky ablaze with stars, each dot gleaming through Kusama’s loops like a distant ray in a vast cosmic expanse. Becoming celestial bodies that form twinkling constellations, these hints of light invite contemplation of our place within the cosmos. “My desire [with the Infinity Nets] was to predict and measure the infinity of the unbounded universe, from my own position in it, with dots—an accumulation of particles forming the negative spaces in the net,” Kusama elucidated. “How deep was the mystery? Did infinite infinities exist beyond our universe?”i Both pictorially and conceptually, Nets in the Night is a manifestation of the artist’s pursuit to express the expansiveness of the universe.

     

    Frank Stella, Jill, 1959. Buffalo AKG Art Museum, New York. Image: Buffalo AKG Art Museum / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2024 Frank Stella / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    The Infinity Nets constitute the artist’s most ambitious and significant engagement with the medium of painting, one which has persisted since the late 1950s. Travelling to the United States from Japan to pursue a career as an artist in 1957, Kusama gazed out of the airplane window the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean, captivated by the softly undulating surface of the water. This oceanic infinitude would provide the conceptual basis for the series, which she began not long after her arrival in New York. Within the context of post-war American abstraction, these intricate networks of painted loops established an important bridge between the gestural energies of Abstract Expressionism and the formal economy of Minimalism. Over the next six decades, Kusama continuously revisited and refined the Infinity Nets, experimenting with different color palettes, brushwork techniques, and scales; with time, the execution of the series became a serial act itself. Each painting, such as Nets in the Night, therefore constitutes a unique exploration of texture, rhythm, and space. This tension between infinity and individuality lies at the heart of Kusama’s oeuvre, and the personal significance of these works was underscored by her decision to name her autobiography Infinity Net (2023).

     

     

    Coalescing the obsessional, repetitive, and immersive qualities for which she is best known, the visual language of Nets in the Night constitutes a distillation of the main themes of her life and career. Indeed, the densely dotted “infinity net” motif is one that is deeply rooted in the artist’s own biography. Growing up on her family’s seed farm in the mountain town of Matsumoto in Japan’s Nagano Prefecture, the young Kusama began to experience the profound visual and auditory hallucinations that continue to guide discussions of her practice. Against the backdrop of a strained childhood marked by trauma and violence, Kusama has poignantly recounted these early episodes when “after gazing at a pattern of red flowers on the tablecloth, I looked up... I saw the entire room, my entire body, and the entire universe covered with red flowers, and in that instant my soul was obliterated and I was restored, returned to infinity, to eternal time and absolute space.”ii These highly personal dot patterns not only characterize her Infinity Net canvases, but also thread together much of her output, from her soft sculptural “accumulations” and provocative 1960s Happenings, to her pumpkin images and Infinity Rooms.

    “With just one polka dot, nothing can be achieved. In the universe, there is the sun, the moon, the earth, and hundreds of millions of stars. All of us live in the unfathomable mystery and infinitude of the universe.”
    —Yayoi Kusama

    Lee Krasner, Untitled (Little Image Painting), 1947-48. Munson Museum, Utica, New York. Image: Munson Museum, Utica, NY / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2024 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Oscillating between the microbial and the cosmic, the intimate and the infinite, the expanse of Nets in the Night is emblematic of Kusama’s landmark series and cornerstone of her practice. The cosmological, all-over composition of the painting may be interpreted as a reference to exterior world—specifically, the night sky and universe that engulfs us—but simultaneously reflects the artist's interiority. Its self-obliterating loops and dots, an enduring reference point in her artistic journey, are a striking testament to the alluring and disorienting spatial complexity that has defined Kusama’s corpus for decades. In this way, the work emphasizes the close conceptual connections between her painting practice and her installation and performance work, positioning it at the center of her seventy-year career. 

     

    i Kusama, quoted in Kusama, Infinity Net, n.p.

    ii Yayoi Kusama, quoted in Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, London, 2011, p. 23.

    • Provenance

      OTA Fine Arts, Tokyo
      Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007

    • Exhibited

      Sydney, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Yayoi Kusama, April 26–May 19, 2007, no. 4

    • Artist Biography

      Yayoi Kusama

      Japanese

      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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Property from an Important European Collection

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Nets in the Night (TPXZZOT)

signed, titled and dated ""TPXZZOT" Yayoi Kusama 2007 "NETS IN THE NIGHT" [in English and Japanese]" on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
76 3/8 x 76 3/8 in. (194 x 194 cm)
Painted in 2007, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by YAYOI KUSAMA Inc.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for $1,875,000

Contact Specialist

Carolyn Kolberg
Associate Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1206
CKolberg@phillips.com

Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 May 2024