Yayoi Kusama - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, November 11, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    OTA Fine Arts, Tokyo

  • Catalogue Essay

    With it’s awe-inspiring expanse of white, labor-intensive intricate and hypnotizing monochrome thick brushstroke loop repetitions, the present lot is a mesmerizing composition from the artist’s Infinity Nets; a series that has spanned almost all of the artist’s career. Kusama has described obsession with the use of this pattern as a means of self-annihilation, however, her unceasing ability to create sublime beauty with this pattern is a re-affirmation of her persona. It has been said of many artists that they are inseparable from their work, but never has that been more literally and visually true than with Kusama. As the artist, who even often dresses herself to blend in to her paintings, has brought this intensely personal signature, which is linked to her very psychological make-up, to become “her alter ego, her logo, her franchise and her weapon of incursion into the world at large. The countless artworks that she has produced and that carry Kusama’s nets into the world, when seen as a whole, are the mere results of a rigorously disciplined and single-minded performance that has lasted for almost fifty years,” (L. Hoptman, Yayoi Kusama, London, 2000, p. 34).
    Yayoi Kusama was born in Matsumoto City, Japan in 1929 and she passed her crucial years of early adolescence while her country was at war. During this time, Kusama recollects experiencing her first hallucinations that have plagued her throughout her life. In these hallucinations Kusama sees the world broken up into patterns or completely covered in dots. Kusama credits these hallucinations as being a source for her artistic vision and the genesis of the Infinity Nets.
    Kusama was trained in Nihonga painting, a rigorous formal style developed during the Meiji period (1868-1912) that combines traditional Japanese techniques and materials with nineteenth century European representative subject matter. By 1950 she began to experiment with more abstracted natural forms and in the years that followed started to develop the patterns of the Infinity Nets from motifs based on natural observation into autonomous abstraction.
    Attracted by the experimental promise of the postwar international art scene, Kusama moved to New York City in 1958. “Kusama produced her first huge paintings unassisted as a young, struggling artist in New York, often skipping meals and sleep in her incessant drive to cover the vast canvases with uneven tracts of small, thickly painted loops. The inherent philosophical paradox of these monadic works—that "infinity" could be quantified within the arbitrary framework of a readymade canvas—combined with the more subjective and obsessional implications of their process, distinguished them from the Minimalist abstraction that would dominate the local scene several years later. Kusama’s own insistent psychosomatic associations further reinforced their transcendent space and quality," (L. Neri, “Possible Worlds,” Yayoi Kusama, New York, 2009, pp. 10-11).
    Kusama discusses the separation from her work to the other movements at the time of her development in an interview with Akira Tatehata:
    AK: Still, these works motivated by your interior necessity are considered to be precursors of Minimal and Pop Art. Although what people say may be of no concern to you, it is a fact in terms of chronology.
    YK: In 1960 one of my Infinity Nets paintings, Composition, 1959, was included in Udo Kultermann’s exhibition ‘Monochrome Maleriei’ at the Städtisched Museum in Leverkusen, Germany. Mark Rothko and myself were the only two artists from America invited to paricipate. I made an inquiry as to why and how I was chosen and learned that the curator saw an article in Arts Magazine that discussed my work as black-andwhite painting.
    AK: You yourself did not think that you were making monochrome works?
    YK: No. People made it up after the fact. My Infinity Net paintings and Accumulation works had different origins from the European monochrome works. They were about an obsession: infinite repetition. In the 1960s, I said: ‘I feel as if I were driving on the highways or carried on a conveyor belt without ending until my death. This is like continuing to drink thousands of cups of coffee or eating thousands of feet of macaroni… I am deeply terrified by the obsessions crawling over my body, whether they come from within me or from outside. I fluctuate between feelings of reality and unreality’
    AK: Your obsession with repetition signals both desire and the need to escape. However, you also added: ‘In the gap between people and the strange jungle of civilized society lie many psychosomatic problems. I am deeply interested in the background of problems involved in the relationship of people and society. My artistic expressions always grow from the aggregation of these.’
    YK: Yes
    “Yayoi Kusama Akira Tatehata in conversation,” Press Play: Contemporary Artists in Conversation, London, 2005, p. 426

  • Artist Biography

    Yayoi Kusama

    Japanese • 1929

    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 octogenarian who still lives—somewhat famously—in a psychiatric institution in Tokyo and steadfastly paints in her immaculate 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


Infinity Nets (T.W.A.)

Acrylic on canvas.

76 1/4 x 102 in. (194 x 260 cm).

Signed, titled and dated “Yayoi Kusama Infinity Nets (T.W.A.) 2000” on the reverse.

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $842,500

Contemporary Art Part I

12 Nov 2009
New York