Yayoi Kusama - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 15, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'My nets grew beyond myself and beyond the canvases I was covering with them. They began to cover the walls, the ceiling, and finally the whole universe.' —Yayoi Kusama 

    In its endlessly repeating knots of shimmering silver covering a barely discernible black ground reconfigured by the eye into a vibrating expanse of polka dots, Yayoi Kusama’s Silver-Nets (EOKI) is a particularly dynamic example of the artist’s highly significant Infinity Nets series. Evoking at once the molecular and the cosmic, the expansively infinite and deeply intimate, Kusuma first embarked on her series of vast nets shortly after her move to New York in 1958, when Abstract Expressionism was at its zenith. In her blending of seriality with modes of all-over painting Kusama sought not only to disrupt distinctions between figure and ground, but to obliterate the nature of canvas completely, allowing it to merge with herself, the room and ultimately, the entire universe. 


    The Artist and the Infinite


    Deeply rooted in the artist’s personal history, the endlessly looping and repeating whorls seen here are the key motif reinvented across Kusama’s staggering 70 year career and can be traced across the Infinity Net canvases, her soft sculptures or ‘accumulations’, her provocative 1960s Happenings,  mirrored environments and Infintiy Rooms that are currently the subject of sell-out exhibitons in London and internationally.  

    '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, 1960

    With the entire surface of the canvas, object or environment animated by these looping and repeating patterns, the overall effect is immerisve and deeply moving, as is particualrly evident in Silver-Nets (EOKI). Suffused with a sense of light and air, the brilliant silver loops expand like a net across the surface of the canvas, creating complex internal rhythms as the eye transitions from the passages of thicker impasto to smoother sections of thinner and lighter paint. Working in acrylics in small, contained gestures, Kusama is able to maintain a speed and focus in her execution of these works that compounds this sense of rhythmic vitality, and is uniquely suited to her working practice. In its combinations of vibrant silver and intricate patterning, the whole surface is transformed to a shimmering, gently undulating expanse that radically disrupts spatial boundaries and our sense of orientation within it. 


    As her 1967 avant-garde film Kusama’s Self-Obliteration explores more broadly, this obsessional focus on accumulation, repetition and the infinite lies at the absolute heart of the artist's multi-disciplinary commitment to an aesthetics of immersion. Finding formal expression in endless variations of dots, whorls, and nets, Kusama forged a path to self-obliteration.


    Yayoi Kusama, Kusama’s Self-Obliteration, 1967


    Crossing the Pacific 


    The employment of dots in the service of self-obliteration can be traced across Kusama’s entire oeuvre to her earliest experiences with obsessional neurosis and hallucinations. Growing up on her family’s seed farm in the Matsumoto Prefecture, Kusama recalls a childhood marked by strained family dynamics and hallucinatory visions.

    'One day, 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.' —Yayoi KusamaStanding amongst the seemingly boundless fields she describes being overcome by the sensation of being swallowed up by this expansive sea of flowers. For the young Kusama, the repetitive action of painting – of transcribing and replicating these visions - allievated this oppressive sensation and she produced innumerable ‘ink paintings featuring accumulations of tiny dots and pen drawings of endless and unbroken chains of graded celluar forms or peculiar structures that resembled magnified sections of plant stalks’.i


    Travelling to the United States from Japan to pursue a career as an artist in 1958, this childhood obsession would expand into a robust aesthetic language as she gazed down from the aeroplane on the wide expanse of the Pacifc Ocean as she approached America for the first time. Finding in the softly undulating surface of the water a visual touchstone for her visions, this oceanic infintidue would provide the conceptual basis for the series, her first Infintiy Net painting appropriately titled Pacific Ocean completed shortly after her arrival in New York. Significantly, Kusama chose to show five large white Infinity Net canvases at her breakthorugh exhibition at the artist-run Brata Gallery in 1959, which prompted artist-critic Donald Judd to applaud the originality of her concept and the strength of its execution. 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’.ii


    ‘A Closer look at Yayoi Kusama. No. F, 1959’, from the series ‘In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting’, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2019


    Exeucted in 1959 during these first months in New York, No. F, 1959 now resides in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, underscoring the exceptional aesthetic lineage of the present work. Fully immersive and absorbing, the serene silver expanse cast across the canvas in Kusama’s Silver-Nets (EOKI) traverses the full breadth of the artist’s career, its infinite loops brining her earliest white phallic soft-sculpture accumulations with her most recent Infinity Rooms.  Executed in 2011, in the mature period of Kusama’s career as her reputation as one of the most successful and internationally recognised living artists was crystalising, the present work deftly combines the obsessional, repetitive, and immersive qualities for which Yayoi Kusama is most well-known.

    Collector’s Digest


    •    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. Having been honoured with extensive solo exhibitions throughout her career, including a large retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2012, Kusama continues to affirm her position as a leading contemporary artist with an upcoming retrospective at Gropius Bau, Berlin (September 2020, postponed to March 2021); as well as upcoming exhibitions at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. (2020, to be rescheduled); the New York Botanical Garden (2020, postponed to 2021); and the Tate Modern, London (Spring 2021 – Spring 2022).


    Examples from the esteemed handful of early 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. A striking testament to the alluring and disorienting spatial complexity that has defined Kusama’s work for decades, Silver-Nets (EOKI) offers a treasured glimpse of the conceptual and creative origins of one of the most iconic figures of contemporary art.


    i Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, London, 2013, n.p. 
    ii Donald Judd, ‘Reviews and Previews: New Names This Month – Yayoi Kusama’, ARTNews, 58, no. 6 (October 1959), p. 17. 

    • Provenance

      Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo
      Gagosian Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011

    • 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


Silver Nets (EOKI)

signed, titled and dated ‘EOKI SILVER NETS YAYOI KUSAMA 2011’ on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
162.2 x 130.5 cm (63 7/8 x 51 3/8 in.)
Painted in 2011, this work is accompanied by a registration card issued by Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.

Full Cataloguing

£1,200,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for £1,837,500

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

+44 7391 402741


Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe

+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2021