Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 12, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Yayoi Kusama, 'INFINITY-NETS (KSUZL)', Lot 6

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 13 February

  • Provenance

    OTA Fine Arts, Singapore
    David Zwirner, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2017

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘My nets grew beyond myself and beyond the canvases I was covering with them. They began to cover the walls, the ceiling, and finally the whole universe. I was standing at the centre of obsession’ – Yayoi Kusama

    Painted in 2017, INFINITY-NETS (KSUZL) is a resplendent example from Yayoi Kusama’s eponymous series, begun in the late 1950s and extending to the present day. Born in conjunction with Kusama’s relocation from Tokyo to New York in 1958, where she was introduced to the avant-garde school of Abstract Expressionism and the emerging movement of Minimalism, the artist’s Infinity Net paintings boast her most celebrated symbol – the spot – duplicated ad infinitum. In the present work, a subtly concealed red background glistens underneath an overarching orange web, exploring the lively interaction between the two pigments and the rhythmic lattice structure that unifies them.

    In INFINITY-NETS (KSUZL), a plethora of polka-dotted nets ritualistically overlap each other in interweaving forms, creating larger, biomorphic shapes that waver from foreground to background. Kusama achieved this complex surface through a meticulous process enacted throughout her practice, whereby each dot is minutely placed atop a laid ground to create a perfectly attuned image. As a result, the nets seem to move across the surface symbiotically, activating an almost three-dimensional presence through the formation of larger spirals and veils. Trained in traditional Japanese Nihonga painting – a genre characterised by naturalistic realism – Kusama received a formal education in the techniques of perspective and shading to illustrate three-dimensional forms. As such, while entirely abstract, Kusama’s nets also possess a formal quality that recalls the modulation of tones found in monochromatic Nihonga works of the early 1900s.

    In its all-consuming aesthetic, INFINITY-NETS (KSUZL) furthermore evokes the artistic tendencies that Kusama came into contact with at the time of the series’ conception, from the action painting of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, to the meditative and repetitive qualities found in Donald Judd and Frank Stella’s work. With its blood-orange and fiery-red hues, it notably calls to mind the incandescent art of Alma Thomas, and specifically her Snoopy Sees Earth Wrapped in Sunset, 1970, which displays countless solar-hued patches loosely applied within a circular design. Yet, the abstract motifs contained in INFINITY-NETS (KSUZL), achieved through a painstaking process that combats the traumas of Kusama’s psychological abyss, were for the artist a way of coping with her lifelong psychosomatic anxiety. In this sense, Kusama’s minimalist compositions are wholly distinguishable from those of artists in Europe and the United States. As Alexandra Munroe remarked, ‘Kusama’s paintings differ from Zero and Nul … in many of the same ways it differed from American Minimalism … Kusama’s repetition was never mechanistic or deductive, but the product of obsessional, compulsive performance’ (Alexandra Munroe, Yayoi Kusama: Between Heaven and Earth, exh. cat., Fuji Television Gallery, Tokyo, 1991, n.p.).

    Early champions of monochrome Infinity Nets included Donald Judd, who marvelled at the effect of Kusama’s paintings following her first solo show at the Brata Gallery, New York, in 1959. ‘The effect is both complex and simple’, he exclaimed. ‘There is a remarkable variety of configuration and expression from point to point across the surface; the small curves coalesce into longer arcs, swell or shift slightly, or form amorphous patterns or partial vertical bands…The total quality suggests an analogy to a large, fragile, but vigorously carved grill or to a massive, solid lace’ (Donald Judd, quoted in ‘Reviews and Previews: New Names This Month – Yayoi Kusama’, Art News, October 1959, reproduced online). A year after her exhibition at the Brata Gallery, Kusama was one of just two artists in the United States, alongside Mark Rothko, to be included in a seminal exhibition of monochrome paintings at the Städtisches Museum in Leverkusen, Germany; and five years after that, she would appear alongside the Italian artists Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni in the seminal exhibition Zero: 1965 at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Kusama was one of a select few non-Western artists to achieve international acclaim so quickly in the post-war climate, spearheaded by her monochromatic Infinity Nets paintings, of which the present work is a sublime mature example.

    Emblematic of Kusama’s Infinity series, INFINITY-NETS (KSUZL) conveys the inextricable relationship between the artist’s signature style and the psychosomatic struggles that pervaded her life. It furthermore encapsulates Kusama’s life-long pursuit of the notion of endlessness, which she deployed in a variety of different series spanning sculpture, installation, painting, drawing, photography, and performance.

  • 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 Distinguished Private American Collection



signed, titled and dated 'YAYOI KUSAMA 2017 INFINITY-NETS KSUZL' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
161.9 x 130.5 cm (63 3/4 x 51 3/8 in.)
Painted in 2017, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by the Yayoi Kusama Inc. studio.

£600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for £525,000

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099
[email protected]


Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4060
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 13 February 2020