In 1959, Donald Judd, then a new writer for ARTnews, reviewed Yayoi Kusama’s first solo show in New York, at the Brata Gallery. The review begins: “Yayoi Kusama is an original painter.”1 Describing his first meeting with Kusama at her studio, Judd said, “I thought that the paintings were terrific and I wrote that all down. . . . As I said in the review, they were the best paintings being done. Or at least the best paintings that were new in any way, I mean besides from Newman and Rothko and older people.”2
In addition to their friendship and their support for each other’s work, Judd and Kusama became neighbors in the early 1960s, living and working on different floors of a building at 53 East Nineteenth Street. “The fourth floor became vacant and she told me about it,” Judd recalled in a 1988 interview. “And so I got the loft, and I lived there for ten years or more because of her. So she was the neighbor downstairs. . . . I lived and worked there on the top floor, and [Kusama was] on the next floor, and then the second floor was a tailoring business and the first floor was a woolen business, so there were only two tenants.”3
Although both Judd and Kusama eventually moved out of their lofts on East Nineteenth Street, they continued their friendship. In February 1978, Judd visited Kusama while in Japan for an exhibition of his at Galerie Watari, Tokyo (The Sculpture of Donald Judd, February 22–March 22).
Kusama gave this work to Judd as a gift in 1974 after it was exhibited at the Philadelphia Civic Center Museum. It is one of a small number of clay works Kusama created in the 1970s after returning to Japan, where her studio is based.