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signed, titled and dated ‘Yayoi Kusama 1993 “COSMOS”’, inscribed in Japanese (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
162 x 130 cm. (63 ¾ x 51 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1993
Robert Miller Gallery, New York.
Susanne Hilberry Gallery, Birmingham, MI.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1995.
Post lot text
The authenticity of this work has been confirmed and can be registered with the artist’s studio

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Lot Essay

‘ Our Earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos.’
–Yayoi Kusama

With its hypnotic, tessellated surface of gold, COSMOS is a captivating evocation of Yayoi Kusama’s lifelong meditation on infinity, here a shimmering sublime that transcends all physical space. COSMOS was painted in 1993, marking a significant moment in Kusama's career during which she represented Japan at the 45th Venice Biennale at the invitation of Akira Tatehata. Previously, Kusama had shown her work at an unauthorised performance during the 1966 Biennale, where, dressed in a gold kimono, she staged Narcissus Garden , a matrix of 1,500 silver globes, nearby the Italian Pavilion. The reflective field is now an iconic work within Kusama’s oeuvre and has since been displayed at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Hayward Gallery, London, among others. Kusama had faded from the public eye in the 1970s and early 1980s, but following the success of the Japanese Pavilion, her work began to garner attention once again and major touring surveys soon followed. In her art of the 1990s, Kusama focused more on pictorial graphics and colour, employing a repetitive pattern set against a monochrome ground, which can be seen in COSMOS.

Provoking a sensation of an unfathomable vastness, COSMOS is a striking example of Kusama’s infinite tessellations and her enduring fascination with a universal scale. Gracefully outlined in black, the rounded petals nestle into one another. They are regenerative matter, the earth’s essence and lifeblood. As the artist herself said in 1968, ‘Our Earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos’ (Y. Kusama quoted in E. Blair, ‘‘Priestess Of Polka Dots’ Yayoi Kusama Gives Gallerygoers A Taste Of Infinity’, All Things Connected , 4: 44, March 1, 2017,

In its form, COSMOS closely resembles Kusama’s iconic Infinity Nets, a series she first conceived in the 1960s upon her arrival to New York. The all-over patterns of the Infinity Nets enable Kusama to channel the hallucinations she has suffered from since early childhood, which she has described as swells and scatters of nets, dots and flowers that overwhelm her whole being: ‘My room, my body, the entire universe was filled with [patterns]’, she recalls; ‘my self was eliminated, and I had returned and been reduced to the infinity of eternal time and the absolute of space. This was not an illusion but reality’ (Y. Kusama, quoted in L. Hoptman and U. Kultermann, Yayoi Kusama , New York 2000, p. 36). The concept of breaking through two-dimensional space is often discussed in relation to works by Lucio Fontana, who directly punctured and slashed his canvases in search of an infinite expanse that lay beyond. While still grounded in the surface plane, Kusama’s Infinity Nets nevertheless share the same overpowering boundlessness of immeasurable space.

In the Infinity Nets and in COSMOS, the patterns spread across the entire canvas hypnotically, possessing, what critic Roberta Smith has described as the ‘unconscious physical energy of handwriting, attesting not just to the specialness of touch but to its inevitability’ (R. Smith, ‘Yayoi Kusama and the Amazing Polka-Dotted, Selfie-Made Journey to Greatness’, New York Times , November 3, 2017). But with its biomorphic and soft forms, COSMOS also recalls Kusama’s early Accumulation works, for which she covered chairs, suitcases and, in some cases, entire rooms with phallic, stuffed fabric protrusions. While titled COSMOS in English, the Japanese title translates to ‘the end of the cosmos’. Fittingly, the painting is a gaze upwards to the heavens, a constellation that extends to the edges of the universe. COSMOS vividly illustrates Kusama’s indefatigable and lifelong quest to find a sense of continuity within the invisible, ungraspable infinite.

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