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Beyond My Illusion/Imaginary Flowers of Shangri-La

About the item

Yayoi Kusama's celebrated soft sculptures were first unveiled to the world in the 1960s at the height of her whirlwind emergence in the New York art scene. At a group show at Green Gallery in 1962, exhibiting together with rising luminaries Andy Warhol, Robert Morris and Robert Whitman, Kusama produced an armchair and couch completely covered with stuffed phallic protuberances. One year later, her revolutionary Accumulation: One Thousand Boats Show at Gertrude Stein Gallery in December 1963 saw Kusama invading the entire gallery space. Mesmerizing, menacing and mischievous all at once, the alluring power of Kusama's uncanny installation was raved about by the likes of Warhol and American critic Brian O'Doherty, who described Kusama's art as the production of both object and environment. In Beyond My Illusion/Imaginary Flowers of Shangri-La (1999), Kusama's signature soft sculptures are reimagined as a stately golden triptych, with exquisite flowers nestling within teeming fields of her famous gourd-shaped tubers. Transposed from a horizontal sculpture into a mounted triptych, the unruly protuberances are immortalized and silenced, gaining a grandiose, almost regal quality. The present work is less a sensational shock to the senses than a meticulous slice of the sublime, allowing for a detached contemplation of Kusama's singular sense of the infinite. "I make them and make them and then keep on making them, until I bury myself in the process," Kusama once told an interviewer about her trademark stuffed sculptures, which are representative of her longstanding fear and distaste of the male sexual organ. "I call this process 'obliteration.'"\nPeering out from the current lot's sea of glittering protuberances are tiny florets of daisies, chaste and unassertive, counteracting the psychosexual allusions with transcendent touches of whimsy and grace. Kusama's ubiquitous flower motif references her well-documented hallucination as a child; in her autobiography the artist wrote: "One day, when I was a little girl...I was looking at the red flower patterns of the tablecloth on a table, and when I looked up I saw the same pattern covering the ceiling, the windows and the walls, and finally all over the room, my body and the universe. I felt as if I had begun to self-obliterate, to revolve in the infinity of endless time and the absoluteness of space, and be reduced to nothingness [...] I knew I had to run away lest I should be deprived of my life by the spell of the red flowers." (Yayoi Kusama, Struggle and Wandering of My Soul, 1975, p. 2)\nA departure from Kusama's monstrous plants and flowers in other works, the humble daisies in Beyond My Illusion/Imaginary Flowers of Shangri-La (1999) evoke the energy of simple, hopeful, personal and artistic growth. Created in 1999, the current triptych emerges from the pivotal and uplifting 1990s era of the artist's legendary career. After an explosive rise to stardom in New York, Kusama retreated into a psychiatric hospital in Japan in 1975, withdrawing into two decades of semi-obscurity whilst quietly amassing an extraordinarily prolific body of work. Kusama's international revival began at the 1993 Venice Biennale when she constructed a dazzling mirror room filled with pumpkin sculptures for the Japanese pavilion, Kusama reminded the world of the enduring brilliance of her aesthetic and ignited her swift and phenomenal rise to immortal stardom. The current lot was created one year after another major milestone: the defining Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama 1958-1968 exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1998, which subsequently traveled to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.\nSigned, titled in Japanese and dated 1999 on the reverse of each panel


Acrylic, stuffed and sewn fabric, gold spray paint and artificial flower assemblage on panel, in 3 parts


Kusama, Yayoi


This work is in very good condition overall. The soft sculptures and synthetic flower elements are stable and well intact. These elements are mounted three separate panels. There is evidence of light dust accumulation to the crevices and a subtle variation in the pigment application throughout. The surface inconsistencies and variations to the texture of the soft sculptural elements are consistent with the artist’s choice of medium and working method. Under very close inspection, there are some scattered, very minor areas of pigment loss noted, particularly to the peaks of the soft protuberances and synthetic flower elements as well as at points along edges of the panels. Each panel is framed. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.


Overall: 59 by 142 7/8 by 6 1/2 in. 150 by 362.9 by 16.5 cm.


Fukuoka, MOMA Contemporary, Yayoi Kusama: Beyond My Illusion, March 1999, pp. 26-27, illustrated in color Kagoshima, Kirishima Open Air Museum, YAYOI KUSAMA Dots Paradise in Shangri-La, September - October 2002, p. 59, illustrated in color Fukuoka Art Museum, Yayoi Kusama: Beyond My Illusion ‒ Selected Works 1952-1999, May - June 2013


Private Collection, Asia (acquired directly from the artist) Private Collection, Asia (acquired from the above in 2007) Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 3 April 2016, Lot 1058 Acquired from the above sale by the present owner


Signed, titled in Japanese and dated 1999 on the reverse of each panel







*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.