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Yayoi Kusama, 2010
Yayoi Kusama, 2010via David Zwirner Gallery

Yayoi Kusama’s unseen early artworks are going up for auction

The sale will include rare paintings gifted to her longtime friend and doctor, Teruo Hirose, as thanks for providing medical aid when she moved to New York

Some of Yayoi Kusama’s earliest artworks will soon go up for auction, in a sale of rare paintings and drawings from the collection of her longtime friend and doctor, the late Dr Teruo Hirose. Both Kusama and Hirose arrived in New York in the late 1950s, and their paths crossed when the doctor (one of the few Japanese-speaking doctors in Manhattan at the time) provided Kusama with medical treatment. 

In fact, many of the artworks, created during the late 1950s and 60s, were gifted to Dr Hirose in recognition of his kindness, for providing affordable care to Japanese patients and particularly to artists, who he often treated pro bono. Never before exhibited in public, the pieces will be on show in New York from April 30 to May 12, when the sale is set to take place.

The artworks themselves include two of the artist’s “River” paintings — “Mississippi River” (1960) and “Hudson River” (1960) — each estimated to fetch between $3 million and $5 million. Another eight works on paper, created prior to her arrival in the US, prefigure her infinity nets and iconic polka dot imagery.

“This is an exceptional collection of extremely rare early works by Yayoi Kusama,” reads a statement ahead of the Bonhams auction. “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.”

Yayoi Kusama’s New York Botanical Garden show, Kusama: Cosmic Nature, is also set to open this spring, following substantial coronavirus delays. The outdoor exhibition will feature her first ever participatory installation, as well as a brand-new infinity room.

Take a closer look at the rare Yayoi Kusama artworks going to auction via the Bonhams listings here.