10 most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks ever sold at auctions (2024)

Yayoi Kusama has greatly impacted the contemporary art scene. The Japanese artist is renowned for her expertise in characterising bold patterns and repetitive structures. Owning a Kusama artwork is a collector’s dream and among her most famous pieces are the Infinity Nets series and the trademark polka-dotted Pumpkins. As the appetite for her avant-garde artworks continues to grow among collectors, here is a look at the most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks sold at auction.

In a rare opportunity, Bonhams Hong Kong recently auctioned one of Kusama’s unseen abstract masterpieces, Infinity, which fetched a jaw-dropping HKD 46,434,000 (approximately USD 6 million). The extravagant sale on May 25, 2024, doesn’t seem surprising considering how among all of Kusama’s artworks, Infinity is the only known work that combines her signature motifs of infinity nets and polka dot styles.

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About Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity

10 most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks ever sold at auctions (3)

Spread across a tall canvas of two metres, the painting is split into two halves of polka dots and net patterns. Kusama’s trademark motifs create a repeating pattern in red over a black background, a colour combination that harkens back to the Infinity series set in her New York period. With its endless loop and repetitive patterns, the captivating piece creates a mesmerising illusion reflecting the artist’s journey.

It attests to her penchant for exploring the themes of infinity and obliteration, drawn from her childhood experiences of being exposed to visual and auditory hallucinations. Before we get into her other expensive artworks, let’s take a look at how the 95-year-old artist earned worldwide fame and got the moniker of “princess of polka dots.”

How the Japanese artist stunned the art world

10 most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks ever sold at auctions (4)

Yayoi Kusama’s journey to global fame hasn’t been an easy one. Early on in her career, she faced gender bias, especially since post-war Japan was not inclusive enough and was particularly unresponsive towards her avant-garde artistic style. Eventually, she moved to New York in 1958, to carve a new chapter of her career in the United States that was embracing abstract expressionism at the time.

In over a decade that she spent in the US, she made some of her most famous artworks including the Infinity net paintings. However, the obstacles in her journey continued as she believed several male artists were given privilege over her and also happened to ape her style of work.

From her time in New York, many remember her renegade persona as she organised artistic performances at famous spots like Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge, often involving nudity and sending strong anti-war messages.

Eventually, riddled with financial burdens and mental health issues, Kusama returned to Japan in the 1970s and made a voluntary admission to a Tokyo mental health facility, where she has since resided. Using her art as a form of therapy, she has continued to present her unique artistic vision and currently, she is one of the few women who is amongst the highest-selling living artists.

Wondering how much her coveted collections fetch? Here’s looking at the most expensive artworks of Yayoi Kusama sold at auctions.

Most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks sold at auction

Untitled (Nets)

Price: USD 10 million

A coveted masterpiece from her renowned white Infinity Net series, Kusama worked on this painting in 1959. Channelling abstract expressionism and aesthetic minimalism with dotted patterns against a white background, this painting holds mystery and beauty all at once. Speaking about its mesmerising illusion, Kusama describes how “the spell of the dots and the mesh enfolded [her] in a magical curtain of mysterious, invisible power.”

Indeed, it emanates power — holding the viewer captivated by its dotted pattern which is an exemplary display of abstraction. It is one of the most expensive pieces of artwork sold by the artist and reportedly fetched GBP 8.5 million (approx. USD 10 million) during an auction in New York.

A Flower (2014)

10 most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks ever sold at auctions (5)

Price: USD 8.3 million

Yayoi Kusama was named the top-selling contemporary artist of 2023 as per Japan Times and one of her most expensive artworks that fetched a huge sum in 2023 was A Flower (2014). During an auction at Christie’s Hong Kong, it was sold for USD 8.3 million. Created in her 80s, this painting by Kusama conveys a celebration of life and all its dichotomies. The violet dahlia is representative of life’s volatile nature and a surrealistic summation of the themes of celebration as well as mourning. It is also a piece that is coveted by collectors given that it displays the flower, which has been a seminal motif in Kusama’s work.

Pumpkin (L)

10 most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks ever sold at auctions (6)

Price: USD 7.98 million

The giant bronze polka-dotted pumpkin is one of Kusama’s most famous artworks and is a well-known piece even among those who aren’t art connoisseurs. Featuring multi-sized polka dots from stem to base, this installation is among the artist’s most coveted sculptural works and art collectors have had eyes on it for years. At a Sotheby’s auction in 2023, this iconic piece was sold for a whopping HKD 62.64 million ( approx USD 7.98 million) and reportedly set a new benchmark for a sculpture by the Japanese artist.

While arguably pumpkins may not rank high on most people’s favourite vegetable list and signify Halloween more than anything else, Kusama has a different view. The artist in an interview revealed her fascination for pumpkins comes from the idea that they have a human-like quality and form, and she is fascinated with them because of their warm feeling.

Interminable Net #4

10 most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks ever sold at auctions (7)

Price: USD 7.9 million

As one of the earliest works from her net series, the Interminable Net #4 is an extremely rare piece and hence when it was introduced for an auction, it generated a wide interest among art collectors. The pristine snow-white painting is layered with the net motif across the canvas to represent sights of the ocean. Kusama attributed the painting’s inspiration to her own travel experience and revealed that it represented a memorable view she saw from an aeroplane window. The painting from 1959 made a record-breaking sale in Hong Kong for HKD 62,540,000 (USD 7.9 million).

A-Pumpkin (BAGN8)

10 most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks ever sold at auctions (8)

Price: USD 7 million

Kusama’s polka-dotted pumpkin artworks are popular because of their connection to her childhood. Through these artworks, she captures the essence of growing up as a child surrounded by pumpkins on her family’s seed farm. Art collectors worldwide have shown keen interest in these pieces as they display a mesmerising three-dimensional treatment with dots of varying sizes alongside the shaded curves of the pumpkin. Hong Kong has been a massive market for Kusama’s works and the A-Pumpkin (BAGN8) piece as well was sold at HKD 55.17 million (USD 7 million) at last year’s Sotheby’s auction held here.

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Flowers

10 most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks ever sold at auctions (11)

Price: HKD 58,455,000 (Approx USD 7 million)

Besides the pumpkin motif, Yayoi Kusama has also explored floral designs in many of her works, especially from the 2010s. There are several meanings attributed to Kusama’s floral artworks but a recurring theme among many of them is presumably the idea of capturing individualism and togetherness in a single frame. They also represent metamorphosis and seasonal change in her hometown — Japan which is home to the Sakura season. This artwork from 2015 is a rare piece that found its way to a Christie’s Hong Kong auction and fetched a staggering price of approximately USD 7 million, hence it’s no surprise that it placed among the most expensive artworks of Yayoi Kusama ever sold at auction.

Pumpkin (LPASG)

10 most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks ever sold at auctions (12)

Price: USD 8 million

This 2013 piece perfectly blends Yayoi Kusama’s two major recurring elements from her oeuvre — specifically the iconic polka dots and pumpkins. Painted in vivid yellow over the dark black background, this artwork is symbolic of the artist’s internal struggles as she uses kaleidoscope patterns to invite the viewers into her world of complexities. This stunning masterpiece represents everything synonymous with Kusama’s artistic brilliance; hence, it’s a coveted artwork for collectors. It ranks high among the most expensive artworks sold by legendary living artists, including the likes of Cindy Sherman, Jenny Saville and Jeff Koons.

No. Red B, (1960)

10 most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks ever sold at auctions (13)

Price: USD 7 million

The sheer scale of Kusama’s work along with the arresting narrative built through her infinity nets motif, makes this untitled piece, No. Red B (1960) a striking piece. Standing at an enormous height of 1.7 metres, this was painted during the artist’s early years in New York. It is also one of the earliest iterations of the red Infinity Nets series and a crucial piece documenting her mental health journey. A worthy piece to own for any art collector, No. Red B reportedly had several bidders chasing it until it eventually was sold for HKD 54,520,000 (USD 7 million).

Pumpkin (Twpot)

10 most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks ever sold at auctions (14)

Price: HKD 54,460,000 (Approx. USD 7 million)

Pumpkin (TWPOT) was created in 2010 and represents everything that makes Kusama’s work distinguishable. Her expertise in abstraction, pop art and expressionism are all at the forefront of this piece. The psychedelic energy reverberating from this artwork thanks to its vivid yellow on a dark background colouring is a testament to the artist’s unique skills. In this piece, once again, Kusama paints the highly personal motif of the pumpkin with an all-new meaning. Sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2019, this masterpiece is yet another piece regarded as the most valuable artwork of Yayoi Kusama.

Pumpkin (M)

10 most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks ever sold at auctions (15)

Price: USD 6.5 million

The bronze Pumpkin (M) (2014) is part of the second-largest series of Kusama’s sculptures incorporating the polka dot pattern and is also her second-highest-selling pumpkin at an auction. At Sotheby’s New York, it made an impressive sale of USD 6.5 million and is among the most expensive artworks sold by the artist. With the idea of taking viewers back to their childhood and wonderment, Kusama’s pumpkin sculpture aims to celebrate the vegetable’s winsome form.

Where can you see Yayoi Kusama’s artworks in 2024?

Shanghai and Singapore

Ota Fine Arts Shanghai is currently hosting an exhibition featuring Kusama’s series, Every Day I Pray for Love from June 1 to July 13, 2024. The exhibition will later also travel to Singapore in September 2024, however, exact dates are yet to be confirmed.

For tickets and other enquiries: Visit here

London

A free Yayoi Kusama exhibition will be held in London later this year. The exhibition will take place from September 25 to November 2 2024 at the Victoria Miro gallery and will premiere a new Infinity Mirror Room and artworks from the Every Day I Pray for Love series. Also, a new large-scale pumpkin sculpture by Yayoi Kusama will be staged from July 9 to November 3, 2024, at the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens.

For tickets and other enquiries: Visit here

(Main and featured image: Sotheby’s)

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

– What is the meaning behind Yayoi Kusama’s artworks?

Yayoi Kusama’s avant-garde artworks express her life experiences, including her mental health struggles.

– What is one of Yayoi Kusama’s most famous works?

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is known for making artworks with two significant motifs — the polka dots and infinity nets. The Infinity Nets (1959) is one of her most famous works.

– What are Yayoi Kusama’s themes?

Yayoi Kusama’s artworks extensively represent the themes of psychology, feminism and self-reflection.

The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publication.

10 most expensive Yayoi Kusama artworks ever sold at auctions (2024)
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