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Pumpkin (LPASG) 

Pumpkin (LPASG) 
titled in Japanese; signed, titled and dated ‘PUMPKIN LPASG YAYOI KUSAMA 2013’ (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
130.3 x 130.3 cm. (51 1⁄4 x 51 1⁄4 in.) 
Painted in 2013  
Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo
Private collection, Asia
Acquired from the above by the present owner

This work is accompanied by the registration card issued by the artist’s studio.
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Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡) Senior Vice President, Deputy Head of Department

Lot Essay

This year, the 92-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama opened not just one but two major shows: ‘Cosmic Nature,’ a sculpture and installation exhibition at New York Botanical Garden and ‘Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective,’ the artist’s first comprehensive retrospective in Germany at Gropius Bau, Berlin. Just as many other previous shows with visitors snaking in queues, the two soon became the favourite 2021 cultural events of many, underscoring the enduring appeal of the Japanese artist with her portrayal of hallucinatory experiences, particularly with the subject matter – pumpkin.

Pumpkin is a symbol of triumph in Kusama’s artistic career and life. Yayoi Kusama grew up in Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. She has been captivated by pumpkins since she was small at the seed harvesting farm of her family’s. In the early 1940s, the artist started experiencing hallucinations, and around the same time she started painting pumpkin. Looking for a breakthrough and unsupported by her family, Kusama embarked on a solo journey and moved across the Pacific Ocean to New York in 1958. She immersed herself in the city’s post-war cultural scene, quickly establishing a reputation in the new environment. Shortly within a year, she debuted her solo exhibition in the city and created a buzz in the art circle. Turning vulnerabilities into power, Kusama nullified the intense hallucinations she experienced by introducing them into her painterly reality and created these kaleidoscope patterns of dots and nets repeatedly. The iconic dotted pumpkin thus became a display of her internal struggles, in which she returned to a state of mental balance by creating endless colourful iterations of the spotted fruit. Today, the pumpkin has achieved an almost mythical status in Kusama’s oeuvre, and stands as the artist’s alter ego.

“I use my complexes and fears as subjects. I make them and make them and then keep on making them, until I bury myself in the process. I call this ‘obliteration’” -Yayoi Kusama

The supple Pumpkin (LPASG) painted in 2013 is an exemplar of Kusama’s mature pumpkin paintings in a rare square composition and the signature golden yellow colour. Employing only two colours, Yayoi Kusama achieves the illusion of depth by painting black and yellow, big and small dots on the ridges and smaller dots on the creases. The work pulsates with the intensity of the artist’s focus as she lines up an infinite sequence of polka dots. Partly engulfed by the tightly woven Infinity Net background – another iconic motif of the artist – the palpable pumpkin is protruding from it and gravitating the viewers into Kusama’s complex mindscape, to self-obliterate within it.

On its counterpart, gleaming in solid black and electric yellow, Pumpkin is a larger-than-life sized sculpture that puts one in awe when seen in person. The ubiquitous polka dots manifested all over an organic, bulbous pumpkin. Over 2 metres tall, this majestic pumpkin sculpture evokes an unfathomable force just as the pumpkin in the field that attracted Kusama when she was young. On her encounter with pumpkin, she once mentioned “it (pumpkin) immediately began speaking to me in a most animated manner. It seems that pumpkins do not inspire much respect, but I was enchanted by their charming and winsome form.” Pumpkins and dots are two pivotal motifs in the artist’s career for it signified her official international appearance. In 1993, she represented Japan at the 45th Venice Biennale with the immersive Mirror Room (Pumpkin). The world-known installation is a reflective room speckled with endless yellow and black polka dots from floor to ceiling. In the middle of it stood another small room that contains an infinite field of pumpkins in the same yellow and black spotted design as the exterior. 28 years later, the artist drew the world’s attention once again when one of her very first yellow pumpkin sculptures fell into the sea during a typhoon in Naoshima. Digital content about the incident instantly flooded the newsfeed across multiple social media platforms. Though an absolute unfortunate incident, it shows the popularity of the 92-year-old artist has never ceased but continued in triumph. Sharing resemblance with many museum-level pumpkin sculptures, Pumpkin is Yayoi Kusama’s largest yellow pumpkin sculpture to be ever offered in auction.

Across Kusama’s expansive oeuvre, pumpkin has been an iconic and staple motif that is widely known by many. It was from painting pumpkin that she found solace and comfort in when she was struggling with mental illness. Taken two different medium in representation, Pumpkin (LPASG) and Pumpkin are highly representative and symbolic works of Yayoi Kusama’s artistic practice. As one of the most tagged artists on Instagram with over 80 million posts, the Japanese female artist continues to live her legacy with more major retrospectives to open in the near future, including Hong Kong.

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