A Buyer's Guide to Yayoi Kusama

A screenprint by Yayoi Kusama depicting a red pumpkin at the centre of the composition, set against a black background with red triangles. The markings on the pumpkin are delineated with a series of black polkadots.Pumpkin (RY) © Yayoi Kusama 1996
Jasper Tordoff

Jasper Tordoff, Specialist[email protected]

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If you are in the market to purchase a Yayoi Kusama print, here are a pieces of advice before you start your search, to make sure you find the right piece at the right price.

A photograph of the large sculpture of artist Yayoi Kusama in Paris. The sculpture shows the artist in a red bob wig, wearing a white gown with coloured polka dots, holding up a paintbrushView of the Yayoi Kusama sculpture outside the Louis Vuitton headquarters in Paris © Photograph by Essie King 2023

Who is Yayoi Kusama?

Yayoi Kusama, ‘the princess of polka dots', is a move-making Japanese artist who has captivated the global art scene with her distinctive and surreal vision. Morn and raised in Matsumoto, Japan, Kusama's artistic journey began at an early age with drawings of pumpkins, fueled by her vivid hallucinations and an intrinsic connection to the world around her. Though allegedly unsupported by her parents in her creative endeavours, she has gone on to be one of the most well known and admired Modern & Contemporary artists of her time.

Today, Kusama's artworks are highly sought-after by collectors and art enthusiasts worldwide. Her exhibitions consistently draw massive crowds, and her installations and collaborations are celebrated for their ability to transport viewers into otherworldly realms. Kusama's artistic vision continues to inspire, creating an enduring legacy which will resonate across generations.

What Defines Yayoi Kusama's Style?

Kusama's style is instantly recognisable and has become synonymous with her artistic identity. Her unique visual language, characterised by bold colours, repetitive patterns, and the iconic use of polka dots, sets her apart as a truly distinctive artist.

One of the defining features of Kusama's style is her exploration of infinity. Through the repetition of shapes and patterns, she creates a sense of endlessness and expansiveness in her artworks. This fascination with infinity is rooted in her personal experiences and struggles with her mental health from a young age. The use of polka dots is another key element of Kusama's style. These dots, often covering entire surfaces or objects, serve as a representation of the infinite cosmos. They create a visual rhythm and a sense of movement, drawing the viewer into a mesmerising and immersive experience.

Kusama's style is also characterised by her ability to work across various mediums. From paintings and sculptures to immersive installations and performance art, she pushes the boundaries of traditional artistic disciplines. Her installations, in particular, are renowned for their ability to transform spaces into surreal and enchanting environment, inviting viewers to step into her otherworldly universe. This surreal concept of the ‘infinite’ is something we see prevail in her print portfolio, occupied by Dots, Infinity Nets, and Pumpkins: the crucial cornerstones in Kusama's large oeuvre.

Are Yayoi Kusama Prints a Good Investment?

Investing in Kusama's artworks can be a compelling choice for both seasoned collectors and newcomers to the art market. Kusama's reputation as a groundbreaking and influential artist is firmly established. Her contributions to contemporary art have earned her a dedicated following and international recognition. As a result, her artworks have consistently appreciated in value over the years. The demand for Kusama's pieces continues to grow, making them a potentially lucrative investment.

Thanks to the diverse nature of her portfolio, Kusama's body of work offers a rich tapestry of artistic experiences to explore as a collector. Across her print portfolio alone, Kusama has explored a myriad of subjects which might resonate with specific collectors: from Butterflies, to Books, to Shoes, to scenes of Mt. Fuji, and even intimate Self-Portraits of the artist herself. Marrying Pop Art with surreal abstraction and traditional Japanese techniques, Kusama's prints afford collectors the opportunity to own a crucial piece of art history from the highest-selling female artist of today.

Starting a Yayoi Kusama Collection

Kusama's artistic practice is diverse and encompasses a wide range of mediums, including paintings, sculptures, and installations. Thanks to the sheer breadth and magnitude of her artistic output, it is important for collectors to initially familiarise themselves with her work.

Kusama began making artworks around the young age of 10, experimenting with her now-iconic polka dots and net motifs. Her print portfolio spans from the early 1950s to the 2010s, and Kusama continues to envelope us in her world of infinity with her installations and collaborations. Her Infinity Nets, for example, span from as early as 1953 and as recently as 2004. These works formulate a cornerstone of Kusama's oeuvre, and allow collectors to own specific works from various moments in her life and career.

Kusama's Dots have also been a career-spanning obsession for the artist, and populate most of her famous installations and collaborative endeavours. These printed works have an immersive quality despite their two-dimensional appearance, speaking to Kusama's preoccupation with the eternal.

Across all of Kusama's limited edition prints, the Dots and Infinity Nets emerge as the core motifs across her large body of work. Collections like her Sea Creatures and High Heels are characterised by the union of these two patterns: with the Infinity Nets forming the background of the print, and the Dots delineating the subject at hand. Kusama's repetitive use of these geometric patterns and shapes give collectors the unique opportunity to build a collection of her works which is aesthetically cohesive, despite spanning decades of her career.

How to Determine the Value of Yayoi Kusama Prints & Editions

When it comes to assessing the value of Kusama prints and editions, there are several factors to consider. A key aspect to consider is the edition size and rarity of the print. As with all limited edition prints, works from smaller editions tend to hold higher value due to their relative scarcity. Additionally, the presence of special editioned proof prints - like Artist Proofs (APs), Printer's Proofs (PPs), and Trial Proofs (TPs) - can further enhance the desirability and value of the artwork.

The condition of the print is also greatly significant in determining its value. As is the case with all artworks, prints in impeccable condition - free from damage or discolouration - generally command higher prices. It is crucial to inspect the piece or seek professional advice to accurately evaluate its condition prior to purchase.

Equally, authenticity plays a vital role in assessing the value of a print. Certificates of authenticity issued by reputable galleries, publishers, or the artist's studio serve to validate the artwork's authenticity and contribute to its value. It is crucial to be cautious of counterfeit or unauthorised reproductions of Kusama's prints that may exist in the market.

What are some of Yayoi Kusama's Most Popular Prints?

Intrinsically intertwined with Kusama's notion of ‘Infinity’, there are several key works which blend her core motifs and ethos which are highly desirable among collectors of her work. Some of the most popular motifs are her Pumpkins and Infinity Nets, which underscore the entirety of her oeuvre. Her signature dots and grid-like patterns are also prevalent in her more whimsical series, like those depicting high heeled shoes and flowers - which also make for an amusing addition to any collectors portfolio of prints and editions.

After extensive data analysis, which looks at the last 5-years of Kusama's prints' auction performance, these are some of the prints that we think are worth looking out for in 2023:

  1. Pumpkin (yellow), Kusama 115: Illusion-like in its appearance, this particular work - like the majority of Kusama's Pumpkins - features the artist's signature polka dot pattern and repetition to give the natural object a surreal appearance. Set against a dark Infinity Net background, this stretched pumpkin appears almost like a tapestry, framed by green and red borders. The entire composition is crawling with Kusama's signature patterns and motifs, and is unsurprisingly one of her most popular Pumpkin works. The print achieved £132,530 (fees included) in November 2021, making it a hero work among Kusama's lauded Pumpkin works.
  2. Flowers 3: Eclectic in colour and organic representation, the flowers in Kusama's work are completely distinct from other artists' representations of flora and still life. With bright tones and repetitive geometric patters, Kusama brings these plants to life in a style of her own. With an impressive 30% Average Annual Growth Rate (AAGR) over the past 5-year period, this particular floral work is an especially appealing work for Kusama collectors.
  3. Papillon I, Amour Pour Toujours: From Kusama's celebrated and coveted Amour Pour Toujours series created in 2000, this print is one of her most sought after butterfly works. Depicted against a yellow and black Infinity Net background, the patterned butterfly appears to perfectly camouflage within the picture plane. With an 11% AAGR over the past 5-year period, this print is a great work to consider for any new or existing Kusama collector.

How to Authenticate Yayoi Kusama Prints & Editions

Authenticating Yayoi Kusama prints and editions is a critical step for buyers to ensure the legitimacy and value of these artworks. The authentication process requires careful examination and consideration of various factors.

Thorough research is the foundation of the authentication process, alongside any documentation like certificates of authenticity which might accompany the print. Familiarise yourself with Kusama's artistic style, techniques, and the specific prints or editions you are examining. Study reference materials, catalogues raisonnés, and reputable publications that document Kusama's work. This knowledge will help you identify key characteristics and details consistent with the artist's authentic pieces.

How Do You Check The Condition of Yayoi Kusama Prints?

Evaluating the condition of Yayoi Kusama prints is a necessary step to ensure their quality and preservation. Pay close attention to the colouring of the print. Yayoi Kusama's works are renowned for their vibrant and saturated colours, so any signs of fading, foxing, discolouration, or yellowing can significantly affect the artwork's value. Examine the paper carefully for any shifts in colour or loss of vibrancy.

Make sure to assess the paper for any signs of warping, buckling, or deterioration. Look for any indications of foxing (small brown spots) or mould growth, as these can compromise the artwork's condition over time.

When purchasing a Yayoi Kusama print, it is crucial to prioritise artworks in excellent condition, as they not only retain their aesthetic appeal but also tend to hold their value better over time.

Where Can I Buy a Yayoi Kusama Print in 2023?

If you are looking to purchase a Yayoi Kusama print in 2023, there are several avenues to explore. Whether you are a seasoned collector or buying your first print, it is important to choose a trusted source. Galleries and auction houses are reputable options, but their high premiums might limit collectors from getting the best deal possible.

At MyArtBroker, our brokers offer the trust and confidence that comes with meeting with a specialist, as well as the ease and convenience of buying online; we can assist you with buying a Kusama print from our international network of sellers, and also help with provenance, authenticity and checking the condition.

Why Use MyArtBroker to Find Your First Yayoi Kusama?

If you're looking to acquire your first Kusama artwork, MyArtBroker offers a safe and simple solution to buyers, connecting you directly with our expert brokers, who - if you are wishing to purchase a particular piece of Kusama's art to either start or grow your collection - can assist you in this search. Our large network of collectors are looking to buy and sell daily, and our brokers will also condition check and authenticate artworks - so you can have confidence before you buy.

A Dedicated Broker

MyArtBroker offers a secure space to connect you as a buyer with an expert broker— you can get to know our friendly specialists here.

Your personal broker will work with you to find the Yayoi Kusama you’re looking for at the price you’re willing to pay. Our experts will also condition check and authenticate artworks, so you can have confidence before you buy, as well as help arrange delivery.

We offer both the sense of trust and comfort that comes with meeting with a specialist personally, as well as the efficiency, transparency and ease of an online process.

Our Network

Our global network consists of over 30,000 collectors buying and selling works daily, as well as dealers, collectors, galleries and independent experts globally that work with us to ensure we can offer the most covetable and authentic Yayoi Kusama works. You can track live supply and demand for Kusama prints on our Trading Floor.

Our website has 75,000 visitors every month, and we regularly publish pieces tracking the artist’s market performance, keep up to date with new works, auction results and news, as well as offer his updated biography and informative essays on all Kusama editions. Our industry-leading portfolio management tool, MyPortfolio, is a print market index powered by a repeat sales regression technology, allowing collectors to track the value growth of prints and editions in real time.

MyArtBroker has access to a worldwide network of art collectors selling Yayoi Kusama artwork, so get in touch with us if you’re interested in buying a Yayoi Kusama print and we’ll talk you through the process.

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