Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Tuesday, February 9, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Fuji TV Gallery, Tokyo
    Sotheby's, New York, Contemporary Asian Art, 20 September 2006, lot 237
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    'My art originates from hallucinations only I can see. I translate the hallucinations and obsessional images that plague me into sculptures and paintings.' (Y. Kusama interviewed by G. Turner, 'Artists in Conversation, BOMB Magazine, no. 66, 1999, accessed online.) Equal parts hallucinatory and neurotic, Yayoi Kusama was a pioneering figure of self-obliterating installations and performances. Kusama began her artistic career in New York by exploring and organising live public performances, which involved the artist covering individuals and groups of young naked performers in polka dots. Around the same time Kusama also started taking photographs of herself naked with dots all over her body or wearing dresses with the Infinity Net pattern: a sort of performance that symbolised her surrender to art.

    Kusama has often stated that her obsession with dots derives from a mental illness she developed as a child, when her entire visual field became overwhelmed by images covered in dots: she defined this experience as 'self-obliteration'. The current work Self-Obliteration, 2005 recalls her 1968 film, Self-Obliteration, in which she paints a horse, a cat and her own body with polka dots. The current lot presents an adult female mannequin completely painted in pink with white dots scattered all over the body. The mannequin’s hair and bag have been covered with the Infinity Net pattern, confirming Kusama's fear that eventually nothing can escape the process of 'Self-Obliteration'.

  • 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


Self Obliteration

acrylic on polyester mannequin
height: 179 cm (70 1/2 in.)

£150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for £134,500

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Head of Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 10 February 2016 2pm