Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Tuesday, November 15, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Yayoi Kusama’s All the Eternal Love, 2014, is an outstanding work from the artist’s ongoing series, My Eternal Soul (2009-the present). The squared canvas features an orange acrylic background covered in vibrant, amoeba-like sacs of repetitive visual motifs, including eyeballs, squiggles, loose Infinity Net-like patterns, and human faces. The sacs border each other, but do not overlap; their teeth overlap like gears. A black line crawls around the border like a millipede, licked with flaming, red eyes. Created and exhibited at the height of the artist’s career, All the Eternal Love records an artist at her fullest expression, in pursuit of self-obliteration through the expansion of form.

     

    The artist in front of the present work, at left, in her studio, 2014. Image: Ogata

    All the Eternal Love appeared in the artist’s second solo show at David Zwirner Gallery, New York, Yayoi Kusama: Give Me Love, 2015. The exhibition attracted crowds of visitors, who lined up for hours to see the artist’s My Eternal Soul paintings, silver-chrome pumpkin sculptures, and her seminal 2002 participatory work, The Obliteration Room.i The Art Newspaper declared Kusama the most popular artist in the world in 2014, the same year the artist executed All the Eternal Love. As 2014’s “poster girl for the globalization of contemporary art,” Kusama’s retrospective attracted over two million visitors in Latin America alone, not to mention record attendance at the concurrent retrospective travelling in Asia, and the David Zwirner exhibition in New York.ii
    "As a master of her various media, Kusama savvily shifts between such universally joyful content and more introspective or personal subject matter. These late paintings are confidently executed, animated by mature mark-making and a regard for the entire topography of her oeuvre."
    —Catherine Taft
    All the Eternal Love brings together visual motifs from across the artist’s career. The allover orange background, covered (or, one might say, obliterated) by a mass of repeated shapes follows the same basic formal structure that unites her work, from the Infinity Nets of the late 1950s, to 2002’s Obliteration Room. Kusama’s core visual elements, such as dots and nets, make their appearances in All the Eternal Love, but these elements shift and mutate across the canvas. Dots become eyeballs and ellipses; nets unravel into squiggles. All the Eternal Love is one in a series of “fluid, highly instinctual, and improvisatory works, which communicate a clear and active sense of [the artist] pushing out in every direction and making discoveries as she goes.”iii


    Kusama’s mutation of her own motifs can be seen as an expansion of her concept of self-obliteration. Historically, self-obliteration factors into Kusama’s work in two forms: first, through her decades-long fascination with infinity, and the inherently futile nature of her pursuit of it; second, through the obsessive, at times self-destructive nature of her practice. Kusama has described working herself past the point of exhaustion; working herself into a state of delirium; it is well-known that the artist has voluntarily lived in a psychiatric facility for the past forty-five years. This punishing pace is part and parcel of the artist’s practice; how can she reach infinity without self-obliteration? Kusama must lose herself in the work; it is the nature of things, eternal and infinite.

     

    Hilma af Klimt, Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth, 1907. Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

    The artist created All the Eternal Love at the age of 85, and studio photos reveal her process at this advanced stage of her practice. The artist sits at a large table, with the square canvas before her. She covers as much of the painted surface as she can reach with her bright, mutating motifs, before she rotates the canvas, bringing another expanse of the infinite within arm’s length. Looking at the surface of All the Eternal Love, one can imagine the sectioning of the work. The small, green face, facing her, turns, becomes a series of faces in profile, turns, a small, red face, turns. Each 194 x 194 cm canvas takes just one day to complete.
    "I am now at an age that I never imagined I would reach. I think my time, that is the time remaining before I pass away, won’t be long. Then, what shall I leave to posterity? I have to do my very best…"
    —Yayoi Kusama
    Kusama made the above remark in the year 2000, at the age of 71. The sentiment holds true with All the Eternal Love, fourteen years later. The artist stays committed to doing her “very best,” repeating and redefining her visual language across the hundred-plus canvases that comprise My Eternal Soul. Jörg Heiser describes the earnest pace of the artist’s late work as “acting against death; turning the very awareness of death into a source of energy.”iv He cites the philosopher Martin Heidegger’s concept of “being-towards-death,” the idea that the self can only come into itself, that life can only ever really be lived, if one is aware of the ultimate finitude of things; or, alternately, in the case of Kusama, if one pulls infinite meaning from the knowledge that all life, eventually, ends.v


    The titles of the My Eternal Soul series are flush with a rapid earnestness of meaning, a raw and vulnerable desire to communicate as much of her eternal soul within the concurrent brevity and infinity of time left to her. With each canvas, with each day’s work, Kusama gives another piece of herself to posterity: My Heart, My Life, All the Eternal Love.

     

    i Courtney Iseman, “Yayoi Kusama Wants You To Help Create Her Latest Artwork,” i-D, November 5, 2015, online.
    ii Javier Pes and Emily Sharpe, “Visitor Figures 2014: The World Goes Dotty Over Yayoi Kusama,” The Art Newspaper, April 1, 2015, online.
    iii Akita Tatehata, “New Paintings,” in Kusama, Louise Neri, ed., New York, 2012, p. 240.
    iv Jörg Heiser, “Kusama’s Late Work,” in Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Stephanie Rosenthal, ed., Gropius Bau, Munich, 2021, p. 297.
    v Ibid., 298.

    • Provenance

      David Zwirner, New York
      Private Collection, New York (acquired by 2015)
      David Zwirner, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2019

    • Exhibited

      New York, David Zwirner, Yayoi Kusama: Give Me Love, May 9–June 13, 2015, pp. 32, 114 (illustrated, p. 33; installation view illustrated, p. 25)

    • Literature

      M Felix, "Yayoi Kusama at David Zwirner," Widewalls, May 8, 2015, online (detail illustrated; installation view of the present work with the artist in the artist's studio, 2014, illustrated)
      Anna Russell, "Inside Yayoi Kusama's New Exhibit, 'Give Me Love,'" The Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2015, online (installation view of the present work with the artist in the artist's studio, 2014, illustrated)
      Courtney Iseman, "Yayoi Kusama Wants You to Help Create Her Latest Artwork, " I-D Magazine, May 11, 2015, online (illustrated; installation view of the present work with the artist in the artist's studio, 2014, illustrated)
      Susan McCormac, "Yayoi Kusama: New Paintings, New Pumpkins, and The Obliteration Room," JapanCulture NYC, May 14, 2015, online (David Zwirner, New York, 2015, installation view illustrated)
      Maisie Skidmore, "The inimitable Yayoi Kusama is back with a new exhibition, Give Me Love," It's Nice That, May 15, 2015, online (illustrated)
      Reena Devi, "Yayoi Kusama’s Art and Life Blurs Lines Between Fantasy and Reality," CoBo Social, November 10, 2020, online (illustrated; installation view of the present work with the artist in the artist's studio, 2014, illustrated)

    • 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. 

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Property from a Private Collection

Ο ◆21

All The Eternal Love

signed, titled and dated "永遠の愛たち ALL THE ETERNAL LOVE 2014 YAYOI KUSAMA" on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
76 3/8 x 76 3/8 in. (194 x 194 cm)
Painted in 2014, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for $1,966,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 November 2022