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Robust Interest Worldwide Boosts Demand for Work by Yayoi Kusama

Japanese painter and sculptor Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) has “strong markets in every single continent,” Glenn Scott Wright, director of the Victoria Miro Gallery in London, told ARTnewsletter.

NEW YORK—Japanese painter and sculptor Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) has “strong markets in every single continent,” Glenn Scott Wright, director of the Victoria Miro Gallery in London, told ARTnewsletter. “We have consistent demand from all over the world. There’s no other artist we represent that we can say that about.”

Last month, the gallery concluded a five-week exhibit of three new room-size, brightly painted, polka-dot covered, flower sculptures in reinforced plastic, priced at $320,000/420,000 in editions of three, which sold to collectors in Asia, Europe and the United States. Four of them were sold to private collectors, according to Wright.

Kusama creates two- and three-dimensional works that feature swirling lines or polka dots in repeating or varying patterns.

In the past, the artist had consigned her work to a number of galleries around the world, but by the 1990s, Kusama had pared that number to three—Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo; the Gagosian Gallery, New York and Los Angeles, and Victoria Miro. “We have quite a collaborative relationship,” Wright said, noting that Miro has represented the artist since 1997, displaying new work in solo or group exhibitions every year since.

Wright said that the gallery occasionally sells older works by the artist on the secondary market, but most of its activities involve “more recent work.” Wright said auction prices have frequently exceeded those of resales through the gallery. For instance, the acrylic on canvas Infinity Nets (T.W.A.), 2000, sold at Phillips de Pury & Company in New York in November 2009 for $842,500 against an estimate of $300,000/400,000, whereas “we would have priced it at $500,000.”

Kusama’s paintings have come up for public sale more often than her sculptures, and a number of earlier works have produced strong prices. Leading them all is the $5.8million paid for the oil on canvas No. 2, 1959, at Christie’s New York in 2008 (estimate: $2.5million/3.5million); the painting was formerly owned by the sculptor Donald Judd. Other top prices include $3.3million, paid for the oil No. G.A. White, 1960, at Christie’s last May (estimate: $1million/1.5million), and $1.9million, paid for the oil NO. A, 1960, at Christie’s in November 2009 (estimate: $1million/1.5million).

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