Lot 977
  • 977

Yayoi Kusama

2,000,000 - 2,500,000 HKD
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  • Yayoi Kusama
  • The Milky Way (triptych)
  • acrylic on canvas
Each panel signed in English, titled in Japanese and English and dated 1991-1992 on the reverse


Moma Contemporary, Japan
Private Collection


Japan, Tokyo, Sogestu Museum of Art; Niigata, Niigata City Art Museum, Yayoi Kusama: Bursting Galaxies, 1992
Japan, Kagoshima, Kirishima Open-Air Museum, Yayoi Kusama: Dot paradise in Shangri-La, 2002
Japan, Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art; Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art, Yayoi Kusama: Eternity-Modernity, 2004-2005, pp. 192-193
Japan, Hiroshima, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, YAYOI KUSAMA: Eight Places for Burning Soul, 2005
Japan, Kumamoto, Contemporary Art Museum Kumamoto, YAYOI KUSAMA: Sailing the Sea of Infinity, 2005
Japan, Nagano, Matsumoto City Museum of Art, YAYOI KUSAMA: The Place for My Soul, 2005


There are some areas of grime to the edges of the canvases but otherwise, the work is in good condition overall.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note


"I had a desire to prophecy and measure the infinity of the boundless universe..."
Yayoi Kusama

The looming stature achieved by Yayoi Kusama both as something of a national treasure in her homeland of Japan and as one of the most influential figures in the Eurocentric modern and contemporary art history is, by no small measure, a gargantuan feat. The sheer number of large retrospectives that have been held at prestigious art institutions in her honour over past decades is an evidentiary fact. Much scholarly discourse and extensive investigation have precipitated as a result of her vast and prolific artistic career. Every respectable monograph has conscientiously outlined her pivotal phase in New York during the 1960's and 70's, then proceeded to position the period as an indelible backdrop to her subsequent years back in Tokyo, thus paving the eventual way toward the artist's international recognition. Her creative journey has spanned over the inception and flowering of many sweeping art movements, dominant schools of thought and a host of clever "ism's", yet despite earnest efforts by critics and art historians to subsume her work under one blanket term, Kusama's art categorically defies all classification. Utterly unique, the artist's oeuvre has displayed a remarkable consistency since the very beginning. A strict logic seems to govern the evolution of her art—an honest and raw expression of her inimitable life story and singular belief.

An aftermath of an unhappy and abused childhood, Yayoi Kusama's mental condition has been permanently damaged. The artist constantly teeters on the edge of suicide from being bombarded with intense hallucinations that obliterate the entire world surrounding her. Unable to control her apparitions, Yayoi Kusama has therefore diverted these energies onto the very tangible, physical endeavour of creating art. In fact, she capitalizes on her hallucinatory visions and channels them as motifs and patterns, thus bringing to existence her famed polka dots and infinity nets. While Kusama consistently labours to invent new formats and diverse apparatuses in which to present her art, she has never ventured far away from her perpetual compulsion to capture that which is without end, in time or in space. As her audience, we are offered the precious opportunity to peer into her phantasmal world, travel through her delirious consciousness and sense her very own existence.


In 1991, Fuji Television Gallery in Tokyo organized "Yayoi Kusama: Between Heaven and Earth." And in 1992, the Sogetsu Museum of Art in Tokyo held "Yayoi Kusama: Bursting Galaxies" which also travelled to Niigata City Art Museum,—a survey of her recent works at the time. This current lot on offer, The MilkyWay (Lot 977), falls comfortably into a phase when the artist has held a markedly unyielding fixation on the mystic possibilities of this very cosmos in which we dwell. The universe, in all its interminable grandeur, has always been a subject of fascination and fountain of discovery for Kusama, whose quest to scale and depict infinity remains a pathological pastime, some would even claim a cathartic obsession. As if an enhanced incarnation of her infinity nets, The MilkyWay boasts a three-panel proliferation of the memorable pattern comprising of veins in a brilliant red, outlined and supplemented with capillaries of a darker blue. Upon closer examination, one encounters a pulsating force that energizes every part of the canvas. The image, one that alludes easily to a magnified network of blood vessels, collides with the title, purposefully assigned by the artist herself, with an unexpected result of articulating the eternal connection between human life and its resident galaxy. Yayoi Kusama once again arrives at a striking pictorial solution to the challenge of painting what is representative yet also abstract, much like our understanding of the outer space, undeniably caught in between known and unknown, solitude and multitude, beauty and mystery.