Yayoi Kusama - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 9, 2012 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    OTA Fine Arts, Tokyo
    Phillips de Pury & Company, London, ‘Contemporary Art’, 13 October 2007, lot 320
    Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “We must lose ourselves in the ever advancing stream of eternity.” YAYOI KUSAMA

    “Kusama has described her obsession with the use of this pattern as a means of self-annihilation, however, her unceasing ability to create sublime beauty is a re-affirmation of her persona. It has been said ofmany artists that they are inseparable from their work, but never has that been more literally and visually true than with Kusama.” (L. Hoptman, Yayoi Kusama, London, 2000, p. 34)

    Galaxy (Red) A,B,C, from 1991, is a triptych by the internationally renowned artist Yayoi Kusama. The present lot, whilst powerful and revealing in its own right, provides a fundamental insight into Kusama’s (six decades long) obsession with the visual. It also marks Kusama’s return to prominence in the 1990s. The work was created just before her highly acclaimed representation of Japan at the Venice Biennale in 1993 and her major retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1998.

    At the core of Kusama’s art are the themes of identity, interactivity and infinity. During her career, Kusama has travelled back and forth between
    Japan and New York where she has been involved in the avant-garde art scene. Her work simultaneously participates in and yet surpasses categories such as Pop art, Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism and Minimalism. Kusama challenges the varying contexts in which she is observed. Just as her works are organically varying, based on the context in which they are seen, Kusama’s identity is also a fundamentally shifting motif. She forcefully realigns the boundaries between self and environment allowing the viewer an insight into her unique hallucinatory experiences. As a young woman, Kusama was diagnosed with an obsessive-compulsive disorder. She has suffered years of powerful hallucinations in which she sees the world covered in a series of vivid netlike patterns. She has described these hallucinations: “My room, my body, the entire universe was filled with [patterns], my self was eliminated, and I had returned and been reduced to the infinity of eternal time and the absolute of space. This was not an allusion but reality” (Yayoi Kusama, New York, 2000, p. 36). In this regard, paintings such as the Galaxy (Red) triptych exist as physical and mental imprints of Kusama’s being.

    Here, individuality is fused with multiplicity, proliferation with fragmentation. Simultaneously arbitrary and orchestrated, the painting’s boundaries blur. Consequently, normal perception of depth, space and perspective are disrupted. These all-over paintings render dots in unsystematic colonies, circular and cell like. The painting’s kinetic
    surfaces collide and collapse and their biomorphic forms pulsate. Kusama’s painted white dots seemingly spiral beyond the confines of the composition. In each of the Galaxy (Red) paintings, Kusama has skillfully rendered the infinite, limitless and unrestricted, within the constructed boundaries of the ready-made canvas. As she has
    explained, “by obliterating one’s individual self, one returns to the infinite universe” (G.Turner, ‘Yayoi Kusama’, Bomb, v. 66, Winter 1999). Kusama’s innovation is to create an environment that requires the viewer’s immersion – her work she diminishes the distinction between art and life. By repetition of the dot motif, Kusama seems to extend her paintings beyond the canvas – after viewing such works, the pattern of dots appears to continue beyond their frames.

    In the present lot, the colour red is a important component, intrinsic to the power and intensity of the work. Red has a particular significance for Kusama because, according to Japanese folk tradition, it is the colour used to expel demons and illness. Kusama has executed her paintings in a variety of colours, yet it is her red versions that resonate with particular intensity. Her use of this colour recalls her mother’s red table cloth which Kusama claims was the catalyst for her hallucinations. The deep crimson utilized in this work enhances Kusama’s blurring of the boundaries between illusion and reality.

  • Artist Biography

    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


Galaxy Red A,B,C

triptych: oil on canvas
each: 117 × 91 cm (46 1/8 × 35 7/8 in)
Each signed [in English and Japanese], lettered ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’, and dated ‘Yayoi Kusama 1991’ on the reverse.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for £313,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

10 October 2012