Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, March 3, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'Bring on Picasso, bring on Matisse, bring on anybody! I would stand up to them all with a single polka dot […] I was betting everything on this and raising my revolutionary banner against all of history.'
    —Yayoi Kusama 

    Stunningly executed in jewel-like shades of red and green, Dots Accumulation (WWPER) is an exquisite example of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s central artistic motif – the polka dot. Telescoping between the cosmic and the cellular, Dots Accumulation (WWPER) fills our visual field with its infinite, psychedelic accumulations, the dots seeming to move beyond the picture plane to immerse us in their delicate web of pure colour. Closely related to her celebrated Infinity Net series in its intricate, repeating, all-over pattern, Dots Accumulation (WWPER) captures the obsessional focus on accumulation, repetition, and the infinite that best characterises Kusama’s internationally celebrated practice. 

    Now completely synonymous with the artist, Kusama first began to use polka dots at the very outset of her staggering 70-year career. Housed in The Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection, the 1952 ink on paperboard Accumulation is one of only a few examples of Kusama’s early work to survive, and highlights its foundational role within her oeuvre. More than a visual strategy, the polka dot also embodies a profoundly personal narrative, emerging directly from the visual hallucinations that the artist has suffered from since childhood. Coupled with a strained and sometimes violent family dynamic, Kusama recalls standing in the vast fields of flowers that made up her family’s seed farm in the Matsumoto Prefecture, overwhelmed by their seemingly infinite expansion, she felt atomised among them. Sometimes accompanied by auditory hallucinations, these visions persisted, as the artist has vividly described:


    detail of the present work

    'One day, after gazing at a pattern of red flowers on the tablecloth, I looked up […] I saw the entire room, my entire body, and the entire universe covered with red flowers, and in that instant my soul was obliterated and I was restored, returned to infinity, to eternal time and absolute space.' —Yayoi Kusama

    As Kusama is always keen to emphasise, obliteration is not a negative sensation, but one of being restored to an infinite plenitude, and the repetitive accumulations, dots, knots, and whorls that best characterise her work act as once as the materialisation of these visions, and a therapeutic response to them, a translation of ‘hallucinations and a fear of hallucinations into paintings.’i 


    Kusama’s Self-Obliteration 


    Anointing herself as the ‘High Priestess of Polka Dots’, in the 1960s, Kusama harnessed the liberating potential of her infinite, accumulating dots in public performances and Happenings. Participatory, immersive, and obliterating the insular individuality of the self, Kusama staged scandalous Happenings where she painted dots over a host of naked bodies, either in public, or in mirrored environments prefiguring her immensely popular Infinity Rooms. Arrested for her 1968 anti-Vietnam war protest Body Paint Festival, Kusama married her aesthetic vision to one of global politics, emphasising our collective, universal identity over individuality. In painting the accumulating patterns of her hallucinations directly into the surface of human skin she believed she ‘obliterated their individual selves and returned them to the infinite universe, vividly evoked in her 1967 avant-garde film Yayoi Kusama’s Self-Obliteration ’.ii


    A favourite colour in Kusama’s repertoire, the intricate red lattice work of this 2008 work visually recalls some of Kusama’s most iconic works from this period, immediately evoking the red polka dots of her 1965 Infinity Mirror Room-Phali’s Field. Prefiguring her installation art and effectively bringing together her soft sculptures, mirrored environments, and the rich palette of the present work, Infinity Mirror Room-Phali’s Field made actual the implied infinity of her drawings and paintings, a model that clearly still resonated with the artist some 40 years later.iii Dressed entirely in red, Kusama directly identifies herself as one of the innumerable polka dots in this work, a vivid actualisation ‘of the obsession, over the passionate accretion and repetition inside of me’.iv


    Artistic Intersections  


    Georgia O’Keeffe, Sky Above Clouds IV, 1965, The Art Institute of Chicago. image: The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY/ Scala, Florence, Artwork: © 2022 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / DACS, London

    During her time in New York Kusama found herself at the heart of a robust avant-garde scene, her work more than often breaking new ground that her more influential contemporaries quickly adopted. Included in what has been retrospectively identified as the first Pop art exhibition in the United States, Kusama’s first soft-sculpture Accumulation No. 1 directly influenced the shift to fabric in Charles Oldenburg’s work, while her phenomeal Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show in 1964 prefigured Pop icon Andy Warhol’s first exhibition of the repeating wallpaper motif Cow which covered the walls of Leo Castelli’s gallery some months later. 

    She did also find inspiration and support there. Sensing a kindred spirit in the older, established artist Georgia O’Keeffe, Kusama contacted her from Japan, sending her examples of her work and asking for her advice as an older, woman artist. Visually recalling the repeating patterns of Kusama’s Infinity Nets and Accumulations, O’Keefe’s Sky Above Clouds series was similarly inspired by her experience with air travel in the 1950s, and seems to speak to a more collaborative and supportive vision of infinite repetition and endless expansion.


    More than any of her contemporaries, Kusama bridges divides between the disparate threads of American modernism. As Tate Director Francis Morris describes, Kusama possesses a unique ability to ‘marry seemingly incompatible sensibilities – the "seriality" we associate with Minimalism, the "uncanny" of Surrealism and its fetishisation of the body part, the junk aesthetic of assemblage, as well as the active participation of the happening – reinforced Kusama’s special status at this time as an outsider on the inside.’v With the phenomenal global success of the artist in recent years, and the realisation of her self-obliterating universe in sell-out Infinity Room installations world-wide, Kusama is finally, and firmly, standing on the inside.  

    i Yayoi Kusama, quoted in ‘Yayoi Kusama by Grady T. Turner’, Bomb Magazine, 1 January 1999, online.
    ii Yayoi Kusama, quoted in ‘Yayoi Kusama by Grady T. Turner’, Bomb Magazine, 1 January 1999, online
    iii Yayoi Kusama, quoted in ‘Yayoi Kusama by Grady T. Turner’, Bomb Magazine, 1 January 1999, online.
    iv Yayoi Kusama in conversation with Gordon Brown (1964), in Laura Hoptman, Yayoi Kusama, London 2000, p. 103.
    v Francis Morris, ‘Yayoi Kusama: My Life, A Dot’, in (exh. cat.), Yayoi Kusama: Obsession Infinita, 2014, p. 197. 

    • Provenance

      Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo
      Gagosian Gallery, New York
      Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2008)
      Lévy Gorvy, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • 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 nonagenarian who still lives in Tokyo and steadfastly paints in her 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


Dots Accumulation (WWPER)

signed, titled and dated 'WWPER 2008 YAYOI - KUSAMA Dots-Accumulation' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
130.2 x 130.2 cm (51 1/4 x 51 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2008, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.

Full Cataloguing

£800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for £930,000

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060

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

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 3 March 2022