Yayoi Kusama - New Now New York Wednesday, September 28, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "When you understand the beauty of fashion, and the beauty of small planets, you realize that fashion is a marvelous form of expression."
    —Yayoi Kusama 

    Painted in 1990, Yayoi Kusama’s Hat belongs to an important series created from the 1980s to the 1990s that highlights motifs of social class and status. After training in traditional nihonga (日本画) in Kyoto, Kusama departed from academic techniques and embraced the avant-garde, soon energizing the 1960’s New York art scene with her whimsical, dotted, and often phallic artworks and garments. Combining elements of surrealism and impressionism, Hat is an exquisite example of the artist’s seven-decade long career.


    Hats in Art History 


    Kusama’s iconic circular imagery and pointillist sensibilities are reflected in Hat, merging dots of various sizes with a biomorphic rendition of a European-style summer hat. The artist’s choice of a hat as her subject matter stems from the rich cultural background of the accessory popularized in Japan by foreign influences at the end of the nineteenth century.i A status symbol across the globe, the hat has played a key role in elevating the image of its wearer across art historical periods. Claude Monet uses fashion as a tool to frame his subject in Springtime. Engulfed by her dress, with its billowing folds, the figure’s hat here completes her image. Both the garments and the greenery in Springtime are dappled by sunlight, showcasing Monet’s ability to portray his subjects as belonging to their environments. The same theme of belonging to one’s surroundings is alluded to in Hat, the unknown and absent owner left to the viewer to imagine. The present work, painted in 1990, was completed after Kusama moved back to Tokyo after her initial stay in New York City. Embodying the themes of travel, transitions and memory, the present work is a prompt to question the idea of representation and ownership, and whether this hat truly “belongs.”

    "Clothes should bring people together, not separate them." —Yayoi Kusama

    An Amalgamation of Dots, Nets and Fashion


    In Hat, Kusama builds upon her established repertoire of dense, brightly hued patterns: concentric and alternating black and white dots form the abstracted hat, while a stylized bow constructed from a staggered, web-like grid imparts a playful, summery flair. The background visually echoes the artist’s celebrated Infinity Nets paintings, suspending the titular hat within a hypnotizing network of wine-colored lattices. This combined use of repeating patterns and a boldly contrasting color palette, two distinctive features of Kusama’s oeuvre, creates optical tension, resulting in a subject that seemingly pulsates against its two-dimensional plane.
    The repetitive dots and nets seen in Hat manifested in bespoke garments worn in Kusama’s earliest New York “happenings,” as well as in her very own clothing line, expanding the artist’s practice beyond the canvas. Combining her affinity for fashion with her most acclaimed painterly hallmarks, Hat thus reflects the impressive range of Kusama’s interdisciplinary career. Dots will also be a focal element of the artist’s highly anticipated collaboration with Louis Vuitton, due to be released in early 2023. The initial images of the line depict small handbags covered in two-and-three-dimensional dots, highlighting the artist’s lifelong and transcending devotion to surreality. 

    i Ellen P. Conant, ed., Challenging Past and Present: The Metamorphosis of Nineteenth Century Japanese Art, Honolulu, 2006, p. 41

    • Provenance

      Kiriyama Gallery, Tokyo
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1992

    • 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

Property From a Prominent Japanese Collection



signed, titled [in Japanese] and dated “帽子 Yayoi Kusama 1990” on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
6 1/8 x 9 in. (15.6 x 22.9 cm)
Painted in 1990, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by Yayoi Kusama Inc.

Full Cataloguing

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $277,200

Contact Specialist

Avery Semjen
Head of Sale, New Now
212 940 1207

New Now

New York Auction 28 September 2022