1051
1051

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE ASIAN COLLECTION

Kusama Yayoi
SHIRLEY MACLAINE
Estimate
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Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
18,000,00025,000,000
LOT SOLD. 29,912,500 HKD
JUMP TO LOT
1051

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE ASIAN COLLECTION

Kusama Yayoi
SHIRLEY MACLAINE
Estimate
Premium Lots
In order to bid on "Premium Lots" you must complete the required Premium Lot preregistration application and deliver to Sotheby's such necessary financial references, guarantees, deposits and/ or such other security as Sotheby's may in its absolute discretion require, as security for your bid. Sotheby's decision whether to accept any pre-registration application shall be final. We recommend you contact Sotheby's at least 3 working days prior to the relevant sale in order to process the pre-registration, and please bear in mind that we are unable to obtain financial references over weekends or public holidays. If all lots in the catalogue are "Premium Lots", a Special Notice will be included to this effect and the paddle symbol will not be used.
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
18,000,00025,000,000
LOT SOLD. 29,912,500 HKD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Modern and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

|
Hong Kong

Kusama Yayoi
B. 1929
SHIRLEY MACLAINE
signed in English and dated 1970 on the reverse, framed
oil on canvas in artist's frame (colored wire)
119 by 99 cm; 46⅞ by 39 in.
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Provenance

Galerij Orez, Netherlands
Private Collection
MOMA Contemporary, Fukuoka
Private Collection
Acquired by the present owner from the above

This work is accompanied with an artwork registration card issued by the artist's studio

Exhibited

Netherlands, Hague, Internationale Galerij Orez, Yayoi Kusama Portrait Paintings, October - November 1970
Japan, Fukuoka, MOMA Contemporary, Yayoi Kusama 1967-1970: Cage Painting Woman, 24 June - 7 July 1998, unpaginated (illustrated in colour) 
Japan, Kagoshima, Kirishima Open Air Museum, YAYOI KUSAMA Dots paradise in Shangri-La, 7 September - 27 October, 2002, p. 18 (illustrated in colour)

Catalogue Note

Shirley MacLaine, Caged
Kusama Yayoi

Untitled is one of the most important works of contemporary art history to have appeared in the auction market in recent years—a portrait of Hollywood grand dame Shirley MacLaine, painted by Kusama Yayoi, herself the grand dame of the Japanese and international avant-garde. Executed in 1970, this portrait was one of only three multi-colored ‘caged paintings’ exhibited at her solo exhibition “Yayoi Kusama Portrait Paintings” at the Internationale Galerij Orez, The Hague, Holland, in that year—the rest of the portraits contained only dual colours. The present work was also exhibited at MOMA Contemporary in Fukuoka, Japan in 1998; up until that point, the location of these extremely scarce ‘caged paintings’ were unknown for many years. The series includes less than ten portraits, depicting famous female icons such as Sharon Tate, Juliette Greco, Raquel Welch, Jacqueline Onassis, Mata Hari and Elizabeth Taylor, etc. It is extremely rare for Kusama to paint portraits of other people, with this series being the sole exception; and the portraits are ‘caged’, meaning that Kusama constructed a layer of wire netting over the canvas. The wire netting creates a specific effect, with the shadows of the wire netting intertwining with the multi-coloured painted net patterns on the canvas. Rare, unique and historically significant, the current lot thus constitutes an echo of Kusama’s iconic infinity net motif as well as a powerful metaphor of personal and artistic struggle.

To understand the full personal and historical significance of the present lot, which was created at the turn of the decade in 1970, a closer examination of Kusama’s prior epoch-defining era in the 1960s is warranted. After arriving in the city, penniless and unknown, in 1958, by 1960 Kusama was already represented by uptown gallerist Stephen Radich as well as Beatrice Perry of Gres Gallery in Washington D.C. Around that time she attracted the attention of German curator Udo Kultermann, which led to Kusama’s participation in the exhibition Monochrome Malerei at the Städtisches Museum Leverkusen and her ensuing eminence in Europe. During the first half of the decade Kusama was swiftly embraced by the most pivotal artists of the era such as Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Donald Judd and Dan Flavin; these were all male artists, with Kusama alone the one sole female icon. Adept at being her own publicist, Kusama commissioned professional photographers to shoot her and her work; these included Rudolph Burckhardt, Hal Reiff, and Peter Moore.

Determined to continue to thrive amongst her male cohorts, Kusama’s preoccupations with fame manifested not just in self-publicity but also in her works, most overtly in her phallic sculptures. Lynn Zelevansky observes that such works embody Kusama’s “reaction to the male-dominated New York art world [and] express the way she understood her situation: surrounded, threatened, and almost overtaken by men as she attempted to fight her way to the top in the New York art world” (cited in ‘Driving Image: Yayoi Kusama in New York’, Exh. Cat. Yayoi Kusama, 1958—1968, Los Angeles, 1998, p. 25). Such a complex, single-mindedly ambitious yet paranoiac and guarded mindset underpinned Kusama’s activities throughout the decade, which by the end of the 1960s had evolved towards radical performances and public events such as Body Festivals, Happenings, naked demonstrations, orgies, as well as Wall Street and Vietnam War protests. From 1967-1970, whilst Kusama gained considerable prominence in Europe as well as New York, she orchestrated as many as 75 Happenings which garnered her an abundance of media attention along with overwhelming support from youth for her liberal advocation of sex and the body.

Upon a temporary two-month return to Japan in 1970, the year the present lot was created, Kusama was dismayed by the drastically different, more conservative views of the Japanese public. The Japanese press distorted her success into malicious gossip, describing her as a harenchi (‘shameless and infamous woman’). Albeit succeeding in pulling off a Nude Happening, Kusama soon left, writing of the experience: “When all was said and done, my pro-sex and anti-war ideas, and the Happenings that expressed them, went down like lead balloons in Japan. The mass media, the journalists, and the intellectuals all exhibited absolutely no comprehension of what I was about” (Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Kusama Yayoi, Tate Publishing, 2011, p. 153). Kusama also commented, more directly: “This country was too small, too servile, too feudalistic, and too scornful of women. My art needed a more unlimited freedom and a wider world”.

The present lot was created precisely at this juncture when Kusama turned back to the West for empowerment. Her choices of subjects—all strong, iconic and controversial Western women, such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Shirley MacLaine—reveal her unrelenting ambition and inexorable fixations with fame. Speaking about the ‘caged’ series, Kusama called her subjects ‘bad girls’, paralleling a section in her autobiography in which she refers to herself as “both a gifted child and a ‘bad girl’, burdened with layer upon layer of problems”. It is noteworthy that this is the only time in her career that Kusama painted portraits of other women; she did not do so both before and after this series. Thus, the current portrait of Shirley MacLaine embodies multiple meanings key to Kusama’s extraordinary oeuvre, while encapsulating the stories of two of the greatest living female legends still living today.

Modern and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

|
Hong Kong