Lot 35
  • 35

Yayoi Kusama

350,000 - 450,000 GBP
482,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Yayoi Kusama
  • Enlightenment Means Living a Life Unconcernedly
  • signed, titled and dated 2008 on the reverse
  • acrylic on canvas
  • 194 by 259cm.; 76 3/8 by 102in.


Gagosian Gallery, New York

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

A work of stunning complexity and elegiac beauty, Enlightenment Means Living a Life Unconcernedly, dating from 2008, is a superb example of Yayoi Kusama’s most celebrated series, Infinity Nets. Formed of a writhing mass of layers of swirling paint, the work is almost three-dimensional in its textural complexity, pulsating with an extraordinary sensation of dynamism and movement. Kusama produced her first Infinity Net paintings in 1959, exhibited in New York's Brata Gallery, transforming the monochrome genre championed by her contemporaries into a complex and pioneering vehicle for expressing her psychological inner being. Although central to New York's post-Abstract Expressionism art discourse in the 1960s, Kusama did not affiliate herself to any art movement. She responded to the emotionally charged and semiotically loaded brushstrokes of Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning in her idiosyncratic way by investing her repetitive monochromatic patterns with psychological content. Yet in their aesthetics, her large scale Infinity Nets charted new grounds. Gradually, the emerging generation of young New York artists -such as Donald Judd and Frank Stella - became major fans of her work, which foreshadowed the Minimalist aesthetics that they later championed. Her influence was also keenly felt in Europe and in 1960 Kusama, together with Mark Rothko, was one of only two American-based artists to be included, alongside Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni, in a seminal exhibition of Monochrome paintings at the Städtisches Museum in Leverkusen in Germany.

Diagnosed with an obsessional neurosis, Kusama uses her art to 'self-obliterate' her hallucinatory visions through the process of reproducing them into the Nets and Dots of her painting. "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. I was always standing at the centre of the obsession, over the passionate accretion and repetition inside of me" (Yayoi Kusama in conversation with Gordon Brown in 1964 in: Laura Hoptman, Yayoi Kusama, London 2000, p. 103). Compulsively painting, often for days at a time, Kusama poured herself physically and emotionally into her canvases. The process of painting the Infinity Nets is central to the meaning of the work. In essence these works are physical imprints of the artist herself, with each loop of the net indexically linked to her being, an idea that Kusama has re-inforced throughout her career by frequently posing with her Infinity Nets.

Kusama's Infinity Net paintings are inspired by natural observation that originates from her early training in Japan in Nihonga painting, the traditional Japanese style of naturalistic painting with which Kusama experimented with small drawings in her youth. After moving to New York in 1959, Kusama abstracted the naturalistic themes of her early works into large-scale canvases with dense repetitive patterns, which finally evolved into her iconic style. While in her early pivotal paintings Kusama applied oil on canvas, in her more recent works the artist employs acrylic paint to create her serial artistic gesture. This more conscious structure results in breathtaking and eternal reflections of infinity itself, an idea the artist alluded to in an early interview: "My net paintings were very large canvases without compositions - without beginning, end or centre. The entire canvas would be occupied by monochromatic nets. This endless repetition caused a kind of dizzy, empty, hypnotic feeling" (Yayoi Kusama in: ibid.). Ultimately Enlightenment Means Living a Life Unconcernedly can be viewed as a profound meditation on infinity and the eventual possibilities of attaining enlightenment through the power of aesthetic creation.