A collection of early unseen works by Yayoi Kusama is going up for auction. Originally gifted to a friend, the 11 works are now expected to bring in up to $14 million.
Many of the works have never been publicly seen — they previously belonged to the Japanese surgeon Teruo Hirose, a longtime friend of the artist who passed away in 2019. Both Kusama and Hirose arrived in New York in the late 1950s, meeting when the doctor (one of the few Japanese-speaking doctors in Manhattan at the time) provided Kusama with medical treatment. The artworks were a thank-you for his kindness.
Many of the artworks in Hirose's collection were created during the late 1950s and 60s and include two of the artist’s early "River" paintings, each featuring Kusama’s signature mesmerizing "Infinity Net" motif. The pieces titled Mississippi River and Hudson River (1960) are each estimated to fetch between $3 million and $5 million. A third, untitled painting is expected to fetch between $2.5 million and $3.5 million.
“This is an exceptional collection of rare early works by Yayoi Kusama,” Bonhams post-war and contemporary global head Ralph Taylor said in a statement. “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.”
Together, the three paintings and eight works on paper are expected to bring in between $8.8 million and $14 million during a special single-owner sale at Bonhams New York. 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.