Lot 1
  • 1

Yayoi Kusama

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Yayoi Kusama
  • Infinity Nets
  • signed, titled and dated 2006 on the reverse; titled in Japanese on the reverse
  • acrylic on canvas
  • 91 by 73 cm. 35 7/8 by 28 3/4 in.


MOMA Contemporary, Fukuoka

Private Collection, Japan

Sotheby's, London, 29 June 2010, Lot 132

Acquired from the above by the late owner

Catalogue Note

A work of stunning complexity and elegiac beauty, Infinity Nets is a superb example of Yayoi Kusama’s most celebrated series. Dating from 2006, this piece is beguiling in its textural complexity, formed through a writhing mass of layers of swirling paint. Its ripples and waves seem to pulsate, resulting in a composition that is idiosyncratically brief and a palette that is resolutely limited. Infinity Nets is exemplary of Kusama’s demure brand of chic abstraction, and absolutely in keeping with the best of her oeuvre.

Although central to New York's post-Abstract Expressionist art discourse of the 1960s, Kusama did not affiliate herself to any art movement. Whilst still in Japan she drew early inspiration from the work of Georgia O’Keeffe, however, upon moving to New York in 1958 she began responding to the emotionally charged and semiotically loaded brushstrokes of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Kusama is often heralded as a harbinger of Minimalism and, in their youth, artists such as Donald Judd and Frank Stella turned towards her for aesthetic guidance. Her influence has also been keenly felt throughout much of 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.

Immediately prior to this exhibition in Germany, in 1959, Kusama had produced her first Infinity Net paintings for an exhibition at New York's Brata Gallery. Through this exhibition she transformed the monochrome genre championed by her contemporaries into a complex and pioneering vehicle for expressing her psychological inner being. Diagnosed with an obsessional neurosis, Kusama uses her art to 'self-obliterate' hallucinatory visions through the process of reproducing them into the 'Nets' and 'Dots' of her paintings. "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 pours herself both physically and emotionally into her canvases. This high intensity process became integral to the meaning of the Infinity Nets as, in essence, these works are physical imprints of the artist herself. Kusama believes that each loop of the net is an indexical link to her being, an idea re-inforced throughout her career by frequently posing side by side with these works.

The compositions of Kusama’s Infinity Net paintings are inspired by a natural observation that originates from her early training in Japanese Nihonga: the traditional Japanese art of naturalistic painting with which Kusama experimented in her youth. After moving to New York, Kusama abstracted the naturalistic themes of her early works into large-scale canvases replete with dense repetitive patterns, and thus laid the foundations for her iconic mature 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 gestures. Owing to the quick drying time of acrylic paint, Kusama's compositions became more ambitious and aesthetically consuming. As outlined by the artist 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 cited in: ibid.). Ultimately Infinity Nets should be viewed as a profound meditation on the concept of the seemingly endless universe and the eventual possibilities of attaining enlightenment through the power of aesthetic creation.