Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Wednesday, May 17, 2017 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, London
    Ben Brown Fine Arts, London
    Private Collection, Hong Kong
    Private Collection, New York
    David Zwirner, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Covered in a sea of eyes, Yayoi Kusama’s Meditation both peers out at the viewer and draws one into its shifting inner depths. Executed in 2008, the present work reflects Kusama’s continued investigation of the compulsive nature of her being and the quasi-psychedelic manner in which she is able to publicly relate her experiences through painting. She traces the roots of her distinctive repetitive style back to her traumatic childhood when she began to experience a specific series of hallucinations. As Kusama recalled, “when I was a child, one day I was walking the field, then all of a sudden, the sky became bright over the mountains, and I saw clearly the very image I was about to paint appear in the sky. I also saw violets which I was painting multiply to cover the doors, windows and even my body. It was then I learned the idea of self-obliteration. I immediately transferred the idea onto a canvas. It was hallucination only the mentally ill can experience” (Yayoi Kusama, quoted in Yayoi Kusama Now, exh. cat., Robert Miller Gallery, New York, 1998, p. 15).

    The repeated motifs of simplified eyes and cilia-like forms in Meditation can be traced back to earlier works in Kusama’s oeuvre and became even more prevalent in her recurring visual vocabulary in the years to follow. The jagged border of triangular shapes that rings the vivid red surface destabilizes the regularity of the square canvas, an effect that is enhanced by the unbalanced, swirling army of red eyes in the interior of the composition. According to Japanese folk tradition, red is the color best suited for expelling demons and illness. Similarly, the motif of the eye has been utilized for millennia as a powerful talisman to protect and preserve one from both physical and spiritual harm, and is further associated with the ever-present paranoia of one afflicted with mental illness. Though its title seemingly implies a sense of serenity, Meditation instead manifests Kusama’s obsessive modus operandi with its ocular repetition depicted in her unique artistic language, assuming both a protective quality and one of ominous paranoia.

  • 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 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



signed, titled in Japanese and dated "YAYOI KUSAMA 2008" on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
76 3/8 x 76 3/8 in. (194 x 194 cm.)
Painted in 2008, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by the Yayoi Kusama studio.

$350,000 - 450,000 

Sold for $670,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2017