Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors

Read what Thomas Boldt has to say on Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors.

Few of us can hope to have an artistic career that takes us to the world stage. Fewer still can hope to transcend generation gaps and delight the modern gallery-going public with a body of work that spans 65 years, but that’s exactly what Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is doing this year. After being named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2016, she’s rounding out the decade with one of the most popular gallery exhibits in recent memory.

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is a travelling collection of some of her most significant works, centered around the perception-bending ‘infinity mirror’ rooms which have captured the hearts and minds of viewers from the first debut in 1965 all the way through to the age of Instagram.

Kusama’s work has often focused on visual themes of repetition, probably most recognizable in her widespread use of simple geometric shapes, typically circles. With her infinity room installations, she takes this concept of repetition further by creating a kaleidoscopic visual experience contained within small, portable, mirror-walled rooms that are filled with sculptural elements. Each of the elements are themselves covered in visual repetitions, and the effect is dramatically magnified to the seemingly-infinite by the mirrored interior walls of each room.

This latest traveling exhibit is a set of six of her infinity rooms, as well as a large number of other famous paintings and archival materials. The infinity rooms are definitely the stars of the exhibit, and the response to their arrival has had some galleries struggling to stay on top of the incredible demand for tickets.

Yayoi Kusama

When the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada announced that they would be hosting the exhibit starting in March of 2018, their online ticket selling system nearly crashed due to the number of people attempting to buy tickets. The system can typically handle around 1500 special exhibit sales per hour in a queuing system, but the queue for Infinity Mirrors peaked at 18,000, with some people waiting for 13 hours for the chance to purchase tickets.

Part of the issue is that tickets must be carefully timed down to the hour, as taking in the full splendor of the exhibit requires at most two or three people viewing any of the infinity rooms at once. Visitors get 30 seconds to see each installation, and may very well wait for 20-30 minutes between rooms as the lines build.

“We’ve gone to every venue to see how they’ve managed lineups, and we’ve looked at what they’ve done to keep people engaged while they’re waiting. We obviously want to maximize the viewer experience, but no question, it’s challenging,” explains Lisa Clements, the Chief of Communications and Brand for the AGO.

The exhibit has already traveled across much of North America, but hopefully the incredible success it has enjoyed will encourage Kusama and other gallery curators to bring the infinite beauty to locations around the world.