NEVER BEFORE SEEN WORKS TO BE AUCTIONED
APRIL 6, 2021 BY: JAMIE ROSE VALERA
A collection of rare works by the Japanese contemporary artist, Yayoi Kusama, is set to be auctioned at Bonhams New York from April 30th through May 12th. The never before seen artworks will be available for viewing at Bonhams Hong Kong from April 7th through the 22nd. The sale, Kusama: The Collection of the Late Dr. Teruo Hirose, includes a total of eleven artworks from the 1950s and 1960s.
Kusama is often named the most popular artist by many within the art community. Her immersive installations have drawn in millions of viewers looking to experience the artworks. Due to the mass attention, Kusama’s Infinity Rooms have commonly attracted long lines nearly as infinite as the installation itself. It is common for a maximum of four people, with a limit of one minute, to enter the mesmerizing spaces. It is also common to have to reserve your viewing slot ahead of time due to crowd control policies at various housing institutions.
Yayoi Kusama with Pumpkin (2010). Ota Fine Arts, Singapore
These newly unveiled works bring a fresh perspective to Kusama’s career prior to her earliest pinnacle of success at the 33rd Venice Biennale in 1966. Although Kusama was not formally invited to exhibit, according to her autobiography, she received support from the chairman of the Biennale Committee to showcase 1,500 plastic silver globes outside the Italian Pavilion. The work, fittingly named Narcissus Garden, created an infinite reflection of the artist, visitors, and landscape that appeared much closer and smaller in scale than reality. Her work was then shown through a number of solo exhibitions by the 1980s at institutions such as the Modern Art Oxford and the Center for International Contemporary Arts in New York. In 1993, Kusama represented Japan at the 45th Venice Biennale and received much appraisal.
When Kusama immigrated to the United States in 1957, she brought about 2,000 works on paper, eight of which were then gifted to the late Dr. Hirose. The surgeon and artist’s lifelong friendship started after they met in New York when Kusama visited Dr. Hirose for medical treatment. As one of the two Japanese-speaking doctors in the area at the time, Dr. Hirose was known to provide affordable medical treatment to Japanese patients after hours. He was especially generous towards artists, often treating them without any charges. As a thank you, Kusama then gifted the surgeon with the works of art.
Narcissus Garden, by Yayoi Kusama (1966)
Mississippi River, by Yayoi Kusama (1960)
Of the eleven artworks, the collection consists of three paintings and eight artworks on paper. Two of Kusama’s 1960 paintings, Mississippi River and Hudson River, are estimated to bring in $3 million to $5 million each at the auction. These two paintings are exceedingly rare considering their use of a red color, especially since most of Kusama’s works from this time period are white. The third painting, Untitled, is another example that showcases Kusama’s earliest combinations of vibrant color and scale. According to Bonham’s Global Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Ralph Taylor, Untitled demonstrates Kusama’s “experimentation during the 1960s.” These qualities are thought to foreshadow the later Infinity Rooms that Kusama gained mass appraisal for. This third painting is expected to sell for $2.5 million to $3.5 million at Bonhams.
The eight works on paper similarly highlight an aesthetic foundation for Kusama’s career. They showcase the common elements of polka dots and flowers that Kusama would then become known for. Taylor additionally notes that this exceptional collection is “extremely significant in Kusama’s oeuvre” as they express “many early features and themes which she would continue to explore and develop throughout her career.” It is without a doubt that these works offer a new and profound look into Kusama as a trailblazer of contemporary art.
For more information:
Bonhams: Kusama Collection
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BY: JC RODRIGUEZ
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