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Eleven early artworks by Yayoi Kusama, given by the artist to her New York doctor in the 1960s, are heading to Bonhams, where they are estimated to collectively fetch between $8.8 and $14 million in a single-owner sale this May. Consisting of three paintings and eight works on paper, these pieces remained in the collection of Dr. Teruo Hirose for six decades until his death in 2019, and are being consigned by his son, a photography professor.
When Kusama first visited Hirose for medical care for an unknown issue in 1960, both individuals had recently emigrated to the US from Japan. Hirose, a physician and cardiovascular surgeon, had a reputation for providing treatment to Japanese immigrants for reduced prices or even pro bono, making him a pragmatic option for the young artist, who had arrived in the states with 2,000 works on paper but very little by way of funds. Of the 11 works in the sale, all given to Hirose as a token of appreciation for his care, seven are from the group that Kusama originally brought with her from Japan when she left in 1957. Kusama and Hirose would go on to become friends, with the doctor attending the artist’s exhibition openings.
In the fall of 1959, Kusama had her first New York City solo show at Brata Gallery. In the mid-1960s, she established herself as a figure in the city’s avant-garde through her installations and happenings, though she would go on to fall into obscurity before her “rediscovery” in 1989. Although Kusama had intended to remain in New York permanently, she returned to Japan in 1973 due to deteriorated health. She was treated for Basedow’s disease and uterine myoma and subsequently hospitalized for obsessive-compulsive disorder. She has lived at a mental facility in Tokyo since 1977, making art at a nearby studio.
Early paintings by Kusama are relatively rare and garner top prices at auction. A 1959 painting featuring her signature “infinity net” motif — in which a swirling multiplicity of tiny dots overtakes the canvas to a destabilizing effect, said to mirror her childhood hallucinations — sold at Sotheby’s in 2019 for $7.9 million, the artist’s auction record. Two of Kusama’s infinity net paintings from 1960, acquired by Hirose in October of that year, are poised to lead the upcoming Bonhams sale with estimates of $3 million to $5 million each. Unlike other early infinity net paintings, which are predominantly a cool white, the “Hudson River” and “Mississippi River” paintings are characterized by a bold red hue.
The third painting in the sale, a slightly later, untitled work both made and gifted to Hirose circa 1965, is predicted to garner between $2.5 million and $3.5 million. The painting features multiple strata of colored dots — rings of red, yellow, and green — in a square shape, which recede into infinite space. Ralph Taylor, the global head of Bonhams’ post-war and contemporary art department, said in a statement that the work “demonstrates Kusama’s experimentation during the 1960s, while also foreshadowing her recognizable mirror boxes — where images grow and radiate from a single point.”
Taylor told Hyperallergic:
This collection of work comes from the pivotal moment in Kusama’s career as she transitioned from Japan to the wider world. They are intensely personal, particularly the River paintings which evoke memories of the river behind her house growing up where she sought solace from a fraught family life.
As a child in central Japan, Kusama was abused by her mother and neglected by her philandering father, all the while suffering from mental illness; from the age of 10, she used art-making to help her cope.
Kusama, who turned 92 earlier this week, is among the most expensive living female artists at auction and has set attendance records for her famously popular exhibitions. An exhibition of her work at the New York Botanical Garden opens on April 10.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
In 1850, when Dr. Robert W. Gibbes commissioned J. T. Zealy to make daguerreotypes of persons held in slavery in and around Columbia, South Carolina, for Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz to use in support of his theory that African people were a separate species, daguerreotypes were at the height of fashion.
Works by Rodolfo Abularach, Mario Bencomo, Denise Carvalho, Pérez Celis, Entes, and Agustín Fernandéz are on view at the NYC gallery through January 7, 2022.
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
“Ecosystem X,” an art-based reimagining of life on planet Earth, is the theme of this open call. 10 artists will win $5,000 and one student will receive $5,000 as a scholarship/stipend.
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.