Rare Yayoi Kusama Artworks To Be Offered At Bonhams Auction In May 2021
Some of the earliest recognised works by famed contemporary Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama—which have never been exhibited in public—will be offered in a special single-owner collection sale at Bonhams New York on May 12. Titled, Kusama: The Collection of the late Dr Teruo Hirose, the sale comprises of three paintings and eight works on paper which Kusama gave to Dr Hirose, her lifelong friend and doctor whom she consulted in her early years in New York during the 1960s, a time when Kusama was a struggling young artist in need of medical aid.
As the artworks have never been exhibited to the public before, it is the rarest group of Kusama works from the late 1950s to 1960s to ever come at the auction. They will be displayed at Bonhams Hong Kong from April 7–22 while the entire collection will be on view in New York from April 30–May 12.
"This is an exceptional collection of extremely rare early works by Yayoi Kusama. Not only do these works have an incredible provenance, but they are also extremely significant in Kusama’s oeuvre, expressing many early features and themes which she would continue to explore and develop throughout her career," says Ralph Taylor, Bonhams' global head of post-war and contemporary art.
The highlights of the sale include two of Kusama's River paintings, Mississippi River (1960) and Hudson River (1960), which features early examples of her famous Infinity Net motif. Both are created in the 1960s and offered each with an estimate of US$3,000,000–5,000,000. The works are exceptionally rare due to Kusama's use of red while almost all her other works during this period use white.
The third painting in the collection, Untitled (1965), is an early example of Kusama combining vibrant colours and the scale of the work lends an immersive quality that serves as a prelude to her later work such as Infinity Rooms. Meanwhile, the eight works on paper which Kusama did before arriving in the US are great examples of her practice, laying the aesthetic groundwork for her rise as a contemporary artist. Kusama painted the pieces in her 20s, showcasing the genesis of her Infinity Nets as well as other well-known motifs that defined her career such as polka dots and flower imagery.
Kusama and Dr Hirose both arrived in the US from Japan in the 1950s and though they both took very different routes in life—one a trailblazing contemporary artist, the other a skilled medical surgeon and physician—the two crossed paths in New York in the 1960s when Kusama visited Dr Hirose for treatment. Dr Hirose, is one of the two Japanese-speaking doctors in Manhattan during that time and has built a reputation within the community for providing affordable medical care to Japanese patients after hours. Kusama arrived in the US with little money, carrying 2,000 of her works on paper and 60 silk kimonos which she planned to sell. She gifted her prized works to the doctor for his kindness in treating her and the two formed a lifelong bond.
The sale will take place on May 12 in New York. Interested bidders can register online at bonhams.com or reach out to the Bonhams team in Hong Kong at info.HK@bonhams.com or call +852 2918 4321.