Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, March 4, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'I love pumpkins because of their humorous form, warm feeling, and a human-like quality.' —Yayoi Kusama

    Executed in 2001, the present work exemplifies Yayoi Kusama’s ongoing fascination with the pumpkin and monochromatic polka dots. Iconic to the artist’s practice, the multiplicity of the dark black dots against the vibrantly flattened yellow pumpkin result in a mesmerising and hallucinatory surface, heightened by the surrounding web of geometrical black lines.


    Kusama’s use of pattern within these works channels the disturbing visions of all consuming patterns she’s had since childhood. Implementing repetitions and infinity as a tool for annihilation, Kusama creates the ability to lose oneself in the vastness of this constructed universe. The surrounding net of lines hark to Kusama’s celebrated Infinity Net paintings, which first established her in 1960s New York. The intimate scale of the present example allows the viewer to hold this world in the palm of their hands, spellbound and captivated as the pumpkin remains ensnared.



    Artwork: © Yayoi Kusama


    Pumpkins, the artist’s recognised motif, were chosen for their ‘human-like’ form and humour, and were inspired by her experience as a child, growing up in Japan on a seed nursery owned by her family. Kusama famously began painting the pumpkin image in 1948 which was stylistically considered Japanese realism and incorporated continuous dots and patterns in her paintings, sculptures, and installations in the 1950s.

    A conscious challenge to the contemporary trend of Abstract Expressionism, Kusama honed her interstellar style when she moved to New York City in 1958. Her identity as an Asian female artist working predominantly in the white male New York City art world pushed her, quite literally, to the outskirts of the art scene. The use of the pumpkin and the endless dot motif contributed to Kusama’s status as the poster child for the New-York based Outsider Art movement.


    It was not until the early 2000s that Kusama achieved phenomenal recognition and celebrity status. Many of these themes are exemplified within Kusama’s oeuvre, as seen in Infinity Mirror Room-Phalli’s Field produced in 1965 where Kusama herself stands, defiantly, in a bright red unitard, a colour strongly associated with power, amongst a floor covered in red-spotted-phallic objects.


    The pumpkin, like the continuous dots that cover it, endlessly appear in the form of dazzling paintings, sculptures and mirrored infinity-rooms inducing a frenzied excitement amongst spectators. Notable institutes have acquired many different versions of Yayoi Kusama’s variations on Pumpkin such as the Benesse Art Site, Naoshima, Japan where the first and largest Pumpkin, 1994 sculpture stands attesting to the sustained significance of the pumpkin figure. Kusama has had ground-breaking exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, exhibited Pumpkin at the XLV Esposizione International d’Art 1993: La Biennale di Venezia, Punti Cardinali dell’Arte and her current Infinity Mirror Rooms exhibition at Tate Modern, through June 2022, has been continuously sold out. To this day Kusama persistently paints pumpkins from Tokyo.


    Collector's Digest


    •    Victoria Miro, Ota Fine Arts and David Zwirner.


    •    With a highly influential oeuvre guided by unparalleled creativity, works by Kusama make part of collections of prestigious museums throughout the world. This includes the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. 


    •    Kusama has been honoured with extensive solo exhibitions throughout her career, including a large retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2012; more recently a retrospective at Gropius Bau, Berlin in 2021; the New York Botanical Garden in 2021; Tate Modern, London (ending in March 2022) as well as upcoming exhibitions at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. (2020, to be rescheduled).

    • Provenance

      GRE-Gallery, Tokyo
      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 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



signed, titled and dated 'Yayoi Kusama 2001 Pumpkin [in Japanese]' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
22.9 x 16.2 cm (9 x 6 3/8 in.)
Painted in 2001, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by Yayoi Kusama Inc.

Full Cataloguing

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £516,600

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey

Specialist, Associate Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+44 20 7318 4084


20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 4 March 2022