Yayoi Kusama: The pros and cons of Investing/ Collecting

Investing Guide
Yayoi Kusama with recent works in Tokyo, 2016. Photo by Tomoaki Makino. Courtesy of the artist © Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama in 2016

The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is widely regarded as one of the most important living and influential artists of the 20th century. But, is her artwork a good investment?

Her body of work includes painting, sculpture, performance, and immersive installations, which have been widely exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. At present, Kusama is perhaps best known for her immersive installations, such as the Infinity Mirror Rooms, which invite you to step inside a seemingly endless space filled with mirrors, lights, and other elements (pictures below).

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life 2011/2017, Tate Modern Museum

The patterns, dots, and netting motifs that are present in much of her work are used in a repetitive manner and can be seen as a representation of the repetitive thoughts and behaviors associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Kusama has been open about her struggles with mental illness, including OCD and depression. The immersive quality of Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms can also be seen as an expression of her experiences with depression. The endless reflections of light and color within these spaces can evoke a feeling of being trapped or overwhelmed, which is a common experience for individuals with anxiety and depression.

Kusama’s artwork is in incredibly high demand, with her pieces consistently selling for record-setting amounts. Yayoi holds records for the highest price ever paid for a work by a living female artist at the time, highest price ever paid for a work by an Asian woman artist, and highest price ever paid for a work by a living female artist at an auction in Asia.

Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Nets painting fetches US$6.8m in 2021

The value of Kusama’s work has been driven by her reputation as one of the most important artists of our time, as well as the popularity of her Infinity Mirror Rooms and other immersive installations that have a very broad appeal. Her solo exhibitions, often described as cultural events, continue to draw record-setting crowds, with people lining up for hours or even days to get a chance to experience her work. there are not many artists you can say are on a similar level in this regard.

Selection of “cheap” Kusama “collectables” on artsy.com

However, unfortunately, there is a lack of affordable investment-grade artworks for beginner and small-time collectors. Even some of her less-desirable prints can cost tens of thousands of dollars, which is prohibitively expensive for the everyday collector.

As a result, beginner collectors may fall into the trap of purchasing open-edition and unnumbered works just for the sake of having a Kusama “artwork”. While this may not be a bad thing if you don’t care about the investment side of art collecting and are not spending a large sum of money, venturing into open-edition and unnumbered works increases the possibility of purchasing a forgery, making it essentially worthless. Thus, many of Kusama’s works below US$2,000 are worthless for this reason, including the Kusama scarves and puzzles, which were originally sold at museum stores, which are then framed to present them as “collectible artworks” to unwitting collectors. It is important to note that you will not be able to verify the authenticity of any product, novelty, or non-edition work via the Kusama Foundation.

If you are a beginner collector and are interested in Kusama’s work, it may be better to consider investing artists who have the potential to grow into a Blue-Chip artist like Yayoi Kusama. You might want to explore the work of Japanese artists such as Yoshinori Mizutani, Nobuyoshi Araki, Makoto Taniguchi, and Shuhei Yamada, as some of their pieces will likely be within your budget.

Alternatively, you might like to check out Masterworks and Yieldstreet to explore art funds that let you purchase shares in artworks from Yayoi Kusama. Shares start from just $20 on Masterworks, so these options are incredibly affordable even for beginner collectors.

If you are interested in Yayoi Kusama as an investment, it is advisable to stay away from website like Etsy, Temu, and Ebay to avoid cheap or inauthentic reproductions.

Check out Masterworks, Public, and Yieldstreet and explore Art Funds that let you purchase shares in million-dollar paintings from blue chip artists like Banksy, Kaws, and Yayoi Kusama.

Read more: Review: Masterworks vs. Yieldstreet
Read more: Review: Masterworks vs Public

We welcome you to Contact Us with any questions you have about investing in art. Let us know your budget, the kinds of art that interest you, and we can work out a plan to get you started with art collecting the right way.