Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 14, 2022 | Phillips
  • "My desire was to predict and measure the infinity of the unbounded universe, from my own position in it, with dots – an accumulation of particles forming the negative spaces in the net […] in exploring these questions I wanted to examine the single dot that was my own life."
    —Yayoi Kusama

    Unfolding in undulating waves of brilliant emerald green, INFINITY-NETS (UAFE) is a stunning, unusual example of Yayoi Kusama’s iconic series. Painted in 2016, in the same year as the Japanese artist was awarded the prestigious Order of Culture by the Imperial Family, this mature work represents the culmination of Kusama’s life-long fascination with her signature repeating motif and the zenith of her incredible 70 year career. Created over half a century after her first Infinity Net painting, INFINITY-NETS (UAFE) emphasises the privileged position that the series continues to occupy in Kusama’s pioneering practice, and its role developing a contemporary language of abstraction. Expansive, immersive, and beautifully delicate, the endlessly repeating and scalloped patterns of the present work resonate well beyond the limitations of the canvas, extending through her entire Infinity Net series out to her earliest soft sculptures, obliteration rooms, and provocative performances through to the mirrored environments and Infinity Rooms that are currently the subject of sell-out exhibitions worldwide.


    Detail of the present work



    Searching for Infinity


    Oscillating between the microbial and the cosmic, the intimate and the infinite, the expanse of shimmering white dots against a shifting green ground here creates a spectacular sensation of organic movement, one that is deeply rooted in the artist’s own biography. Growing up on her family’s seed farm in the mountain town of Matsumoto in Japan’s Nagano ken Prefecture, the young Kusama began to experience the profound visual and auditory hallucinations that continue to guide discussions of her practice. Against the backdrop of a strained childhood marked by trauma and violence, Kusama has vividly recounted these early episodes when '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


    A flower field in the seed nursery owned by Yayoi Kusama’s family in Matsumoto, Japan. Image: © YAYOI KUSAMA
    A flower field in the seed nursery owned by Yayoi Kusama’s family in Matsumoto, Japan. Image: © YAYOI KUSAMA


    Kusama very quickly began to connect ideas of repetition, obliteration, and infinity, the repetitive action of painting – of transcribing and replicating these visions - allowing the young girl to harness these sensations across innumerable ‘ink paintings featuring accumulations of tiny dots and pen drawings of endless and unbroken cellular forms or peculiar structures that resembled magnified sections of plant stalks.’ii In its deep, emerald shades, INFINITY-NETS (UAFE) seems to return to the earliest, botanical roots of these hallucinatory visions, recalling at once the seemingly infinite flower fields of her youth and the stunning, repetitious visions of Vincent van Gogh.


    Vincent van Gogh, Irises, 1889, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Image: Courtesy of Getty’s Open Content Program
    Vincent van Gogh, Irises (detail), 1889, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Image: Courtesy of Getty’s Open Content Program


    New York via Pacific Ocean


    Committed to establishing herself as an artist, Kusama left Japan for New York in 1958, a journey that crystalised the aesthetic language of infinite repetition that she had been developing since childhood. Gazing down from the aeroplane on the rippled surface of the Pacific Ocean she found a visual touchstone for her visions, an oceanic infinitude that would provide the conceptual basis for the series. Executed shortly after her arrival in the United States, Kusama’s first Infinity Net canvas was appropriately titled Pacific Ocean, a stunning expanse of shimmering white scalloped loops that can be traced in the present work.

    "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

    Capturing the attention of prominent American artists and critics, Kusama’s breakthrough exhibition was held at the artist-run Brata Gallery the following year. Significantly, Kusama chose to show five large white Infinity Net canvases, leading Donald Judd to applaud the originality of her concept and the strength of its execution in his role as artist-critic. 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 Frank Stella was another important early champion, purchasing the stunning Infinity Nets Yellow canvas from her 1961 exhibition at Stephen Radich Gallery, now held in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.. Emphasising form over content, Stella’s own brand of Minimalism dovetailed with Kusama’s, the shapes and repeating patterns of his lithograph series Shards recalling the complex lattices of Kusama’s Infinity Nets.


    Frank Stella, Shards V, 1982, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas. Image: © Museum of Fine Arts, Houston / Gift of Frances and Peter C. Marzio in honor of Isabel B. Wilson, friend, collector, Life Trustee, Chairman and Chairman Emerita / Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © Artists Rights Society, New York and DACS, London 2022

    Deftly combining the obsessional, repetitive, and immersive qualities for which she is best known, INFINITY-NETS (UAFE) is a luminous example of Kusama’s landmark series and cornerstone of her practice. In her blending of seriality with modes of all-over painting in this manner, Kusama sought not only to disrupt distinctions between figure and ground, but to obliterate the nature of canvas completely, ‘to cover the entire surface, filling out the void.’iv Through the small, repeated gestures of the Infinity Nets, Kusama moves beyond the canvas, allowing these nets to merge with herself, the room, and ultimately the entire universe, an idea developed in the current installations of her Infinity Rooms and Obliteration Room in London’s Tate Modern.


    Collectors 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, quoted in the press release for Flower Obsession, Melbourne, NGV Triennial Gallery, 2017. 
    ii Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, London, 2013, n.p. 
    ¨C36C Donald Judd, ‘Reviews and Previews: New Names This Month – Yayoi Kusama’, ARTNews, 58, no. 6 (October 1959), p. 17.  ¨C8C ¨C37C Marie Laurberg, ‘Deep Surfaces: Yayoi Kusama in Infinity, ¨C38C (exh. cat.), Humblebaek, 2016, p. 10.


    • Provenance

      Victoria Miro, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2016

    • 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

Property from an Important Private American Collection



signed, titled and dated ‘Yayoi Kusama 2016 INFINITY NETS UAFE’ on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
131.4 x 97.2 cm (51 3/4 x 38 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2016, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by the artist's studio.

Full Cataloguing

£1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for £990,500

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 14 October 2022