INFINITY-NETS (QRTWE)

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  • Provenance

    Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo
    Victoria Miro, London
    Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above)
    Phillips, New York, 8 May 2016, lot 24
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    London, Victoria Miro, Yayoi Kusama, 10 October - 17 November 2007

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted in 2007, INFINITY-NETS (QRTWE) is a stellar example from Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s most celebrated and best-known series, begun in the late 1950s and extending into the new millennium. The Infinity Net paintings were born in conjunction with Kusama’s relocation from Tokyo to New York in 1958, where she was introduced to the pre-existing avant-garde schools like Abstract Expressionism as well as emerging movements like Minimalism. In the present work, the artist relies on both abstraction and repetition to cover the expanse of the large-scale canvas in a lustrous white acrylic atop a gray ground. The present work thus recalls the artistic tendencies Kusama came into contact with at the time of the series’ conception, from the action painting of artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, to the meditative qualities of repetition which were coming to the fore with the work of Donald Judd and Frank Stella. Indeed, the abstract motifs contained in the Infinity Nets, achieved through a painstaking process that combats the traumas of her psychological abyss, were for Kusama, a way of coping with her lifelong psychosomatic anxiety. These intensely personal undertones differentiate her Minimalist aesthetic from the works of Western artists in both Europe and the United States. As Alexandra Munroe pointed out, ‘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, ‘Radical Will: Yayoi Kusama and the International Avant Garde – Kusama’s Paintings and Sculpture in the 1960s’ in Yayoi Kusama: Between Heaven and Earth, exh. cat., Fuji Television Gallery, Tokyo, 1991, n.p.).

    In the present work, polka-dotted nets overlap each other in interweaving forms, creating larger, biomorphic shapes that oscillate between foreground and background. As white and grey hues collide, the composition explores the unique qualities of monochromatic paint in the resulting contrast of light and shadow. While entirely abstract, the nets seem to move across the surface, activating an almost three-dimensional quality through larger spirals and veils. Such a complex surface can only be achieved through Kusama’s meticulous process that highlights both the hand of the artist and the properties of her medium, juxtaposing a thin application of wash-like paint with thick impasto. Trained in traditional Japanese Nihonga painting, which is 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.

    INFINITY-NETS (QRTWE) was first shown at the artist’s two-part exhibition at Victoria Miro in London the same year of its creation in 2007. Hung alongside other Infinity Nets paintings from the same year, the monochromatic paintings uniquely recalled the artist’s earliest white net paintings unveiled at Brata Gallery in New York, following the artist’s move to the United States in 1959. Her decision to use white acrylic paint can be seen as both an adverse response to the vibrancy of brushstrokes found in the work of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, and also a precursor for the Minimalist aesthetics of emerging artists of the time like Robert Ryman. Early champions of Kusama's monochrome Infinity Nets included Donald Judd, who aptly described the effect of the paintings after the Brata Gallery show: ‘The effect is both complex and simple…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, ‘Reviews and Previews: New Names This Month – Yayoi Kusama’, Art News, 58, no. 6, October 1959, p. 17). Kusama’s revolutionary choice to reject colour influenced the avant-garde in Europe as well. A year after her exhibition at the Brata Gallery in 1960, Kusama was one of just two artists, alongside Mark Rothko practicing in the United States to be included in a seminal exhibition of monochrome paintings at the Städtisches Museum in Leverkusen, Germany, called Monochrome Malerei. Included in the exhibition were Italian artists like Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni, the first of whom Kusama met five years later when both of their work would be included in another seminal exhibition called Zero: 1965 at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. As such, Kusama was one of a select few non-Western artists to achieve international acclaim so quickly in the post-war climate, spearheaded by monochromatic Infinity Nets paintings like the present work.

  • Artist Bio

    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. 

    View More Works

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INFINITY-NETS (QRTWE)

signed, titled and dated 'Yayoi Kusama 2007 "INFINITY-NETS QRTWE"' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
194 x 259 cm (76 3/8 x 101 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2007, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by the Yayoi Kusama studio.

Estimate
£1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

sold for £1,689,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 hhighley@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2018