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

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  • 'My net paintings were very large canvases without composition—without beginning, end or centre. The entire canvas would be occupied by a monochromatic net. This endless repetition causes a kind of dizzying, empty, hypnotic feeling.' —Yayoi Kusama

    A stunning and unusual example of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s highly significant series, Infinity Nets (SENN) is a deeply contemplative and absorbing black-on-black painting that draws on a cosmic sense of expansion and infinitude. Applying the same endlessly repeating knots of paint across the wide expanse of the canvas, Kusama approaches Infinity Nets (SENN) in much the same manner as the other works from the series. However, instead of the bold colour contrasts between black and white, red and green, or yellow and black more regularly employed by the artist to establish a vivid optical tension between surface and painted ground, Infinity Nets (SENN) boldly confounds all pictorial space, confronting the viewer instead with a sense of the extreme materiality of paint, and the immersive optical effects of the shimmering nets. An exercise in obliteration, within the radically limited format of the square canvas, Kusama is still able to create incredible pictorial tension and drama, the energetic impasto of her knotted loops animating the impenetrable depths of the black ground and creating complex internal rhythms as the eye transitions from passages of thicker impasto to smoother sections of thinner and lighter paint. Disrupting the flat surface of the canvas and picking up patterns of shifting light as it passes, Kusama’s treatment of paint here animates Infinity Nets (SENN) with a forceful dynamism, reflecting the obsessional focus on accumulation, repetition, and the infinite that best characterises her practice.


    Detail of the present work
    Detail of the present work


    Infinity and the Organic


    Deeply rooted in the artist’s personal history, the endlessly looping and repeating whorls seen here are the key motif reinvented across Kusama’s staggering 70 year career and can be traced across the Infinity Net canvases, her soft sculptures or ‘accumulations’, her provocative 1960s Happenings, and the Infinity Rooms that are currently the subject of sell-out exhibitions in London and internationally. Like these disorientating mirrored environments - one of which was executed in the same year as the present work and is currently installed at Tate Modern as part of the extended Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms - the overall effect of these looping and repeating patterns that spread and cover the canvases of her Infinity Nets is at once immersive and deeply moving.

    'Small forms flow into each other, grow and diminish, with an undulating rhythm so deeply tuned to nature that the viewer, as he lets himself become fully aware of the painting, experiences the same serenity and suppressed excitement that he feels in watching changing cloud formations, moving shadows of sun through leaves, water ripples and shadow patterns in the water below.'
    —Beatrice Perry, 1960

    As gallerist Beatrice Perry notes, the visual relationship established between the Infinity Nets and the natural world is striking, and has its roots in certain autobiographical resonnances. Growing up on her family’s seed farm in the Matsumoto Prefecture, Kusama’s childhood was marked by traumatic early experiences with obsessional neurosis and hallucinations. As she poignantly recalls: ‘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.’i


    This hallucination would recur again and again: standing amongst the seemingly boundless fields of the family seed farm she describes being overcome by the sensation of being swallowed up by this expansive sea of flowers. For the young Kusama, the repetitive action of painting – of transcribing and replicating these visions - alleviated this oppressive sensation and she produced innumerable ‘ink paintings featuring accumulations of tiny dots and pen drawings of endless and unbroken chains of graded cellular forms or peculiar structures that resembled magnified sections of plant stalks’.ii


    America and Abstraction


    Travelling to the United States from Japan to pursue a career as an artist in 1958, this childhood obsession would expand into a robust aesthetic language as she gazed down from the aeroplane on the wide expanse of the Pacifc Ocean as she approached America for the first time. Finding in the softly undulating surface of the water a visual touchstone for her visions, this oceanic infinitude would provide the conceptual basis for the series, her first Infinity Net painting appropriately titled Pacific Ocean completed shortly after her arrival in New York.


    Jackson Pollock, Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist), 1950, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Image: akg-images, Artwork: © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation ARS, NY and DACS, London 2022
    Jackson Pollock, Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist), 1950, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Image: akg-images, Artwork: © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation ARS, NY and DACS, London 2022

    In the context of an ascendent Abstract Expressionism, Kusama’s all-over treatment of repetitive form found immediate correlates in the gestural expressivity of Jackson Pollock’s canvases, while the emphasis on repetition and seriality in these early Infinity Net works established an important bridge between the artistic energies of Abstract Expressionism on the one hand, and minimalism on the other. Significantly, Kusama chose to show five large white Infinity Net canvases at her breakthrough exhibition at the artist-run Brata Gallery in 1959, which prompted artist-critic Donald Judd to applaud the originality of her concept and the strength of its execution. In a careful and precise description of the ‘small dense arcs’ maintaining the surface of these works, Judd captured the sense of rhythmic variation that animates the whole series as ‘small curves coalesce into longer arcs, swell or shift slightly, or form amorphous patterns’.iii


    Evoking at once the molecular and the cosmic, the expansively infinite and deeply intimate, Infinity Nets (SENN) also imagines a new world composed of shapes and forms that chimes with the pioneering Suprematism of Kazimir Malevich. Transcending space and time, Kusama’s Infinity Nets, like Malevich’s deep Black Square, offers a new vision into the infinite that still resonates with us today.


    Kasimir Malevich, Black Square, 1915, The State Tretyakov Picture Gallery. Image: akg-images / SNA
    Kasimir Malevich, Black Square, 1915, Russian State Museum, St. Petersburg. Image: akg-images


    Collector’s Digest


    •    One of the most prominent and prolific artists working today, Yayoi Kusama’s practice blends painting, installation, sculpture, and performance to powerful effect.


    •    Amongst her most desirable works, examples of Kusma’s celebrated Infinity Nets are held in renowned museum collections such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among other pre-eminent institutions.


    •    In 2019 the Yayoi Kusama Museum in Tokyo presented HERE, ANOTHER NIGHT COMES FROM TRILLIONS OF LIGHT YEARS AWAY: Eternal Infinity, an exhibition focused on the early Infinity Nets and associated documentary material. A comparable black Infinity Net, BLACK NETS ON THE BLACK (OQRW), resides in the permanent collection of The Mori Art Museum


    i Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, London 2011, n.p.
    ii Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, London, 2013, n.p. 
    iii Donald Judd, ‘Reviews and Previews: New Names This Month – Yayoi Kusama’, ARTNews, 58, no. 6 (October 1959), p. 17. 

    • Provenance

      Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo
      Gagosian Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011

    • 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


Infinity Nets (SENN)

signed, titled and dated 'SENN INFINITY NETS YAYOI KUSAMA 2011' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
130 x 130 cm (51 1/8 x 51 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2011, this work will be accompanied by a registration card issued by Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.

Full Cataloguing

£1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Sold for £1,293,000

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