There is so much hype surrounding Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn. And the big question: “Does the exhibit live up to it?” The answer — my answer, anyway — is that depends on how you look at it. I know… not so helpful, but read on for some insight.
You know how sometimes you want to love something, and you think that under the right circumstances you would be utterly dazzled and blown away, but those circumstances are just completely unattainable? That’s pretty much how I feel about this exhibit.
The art itself is absolutely stellar. The whole experience of going to see it, not quite so much. That’s because it was difficult to really experience and enjoy the art, at least in those “right circumstances” I would have preferred. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to feel that way, because this art is so enchanting. You want to immerse in it and hang out for awhile, but there isn’t opportunity to do that.
So, let me back up and offer a bit more information about Infinity Mirrors. The main features of the exhibition are five installations — small rooms transformed into boundless wonderlands with Kusama’s brilliant, imaginative sculptures and mirror-lined walls that make the spaces feel like they go on for, well, infinity.
It’s so incredible to see you want to stand (and sit and even lie down) there forever and relish in it from every angle. But that feeling ends abruptly when your 30 seconds to see it — which go by so fast — are up, the door opens, and you have to exit.
Part of what makes that short span of time fly by so fast is the comparison to the wait in line to go in, which was up to about 25 minutes when I visited. Also, you might share some of the spaces with others, making it a little awkward to move around and stand in different spots to absorb it all. I was able to go in two installations on my own, but I’ve heard they are not allowing individual sessions anymore to help the lines move faster.
There is art on display besides the Infinity Mirror Rooms. Colorful paintings and sculptures, plus small infinity rooms that you peer into through little windows are beautiful and fun to view. At the end is the Obliteration Room, a completely white space — the walls, floor, furniture, decor, everything — where you can stick colorful dots wherever you want. The people watching is an interesting part of the experience, too. Quite a few visitors dress for the exhibits in dots (a common pattern in Kusama’s work), bold colors, and outfits that will convey well on Instagram.
And that brings up a whole other aspect of this show. Its Instagram-iness seems to be a big part of its appeal, and it looked like many people were there more for a perfect selfie than to enjoy the art itself. On one hand, I think it’s fantastic that people are engaging with the art, and it’s being celebrated and shared. On the other hand, when there are long lines and limited time to enjoy it, I kind of wish that wasn’t adding to the crowds.
Is it worth it to take the kids?
This is what you’re probably now wondering, and here are my thoughts: This is art that definitely will delight kids, even young children. However, there is a good chance lines and wait times will be long. (See this Washington Post article about wait times this past weekend.) You know best what your kids can handle, how patiently they can wait, and how much you think they’ll get out of being there. A couple of things about viewing the art to keep in mind, too: 1) Space is limited in the rooms, and it could be hard keeping little hands off the art 2) Young kiddos might not be happy about having to exit the rooms before they are ready. (I’m an old kiddo and I wasn’t happy!)
If you do bring the kids…
– Let children know beforehand that there will be waiting and limited time inside the rooms to manage expectations.
– Bring along something to keep them occupied while you wait in lines.
– Try to go with another adult and take turns waiting in line and walking around with your children (this means lucking out and getting multiple tickets, or you can buy the membership – see below).
– Strollers are not permitted in the exhibit, though there is stroller parking outside.
– Have a back-up plan in case you get to the museum and determine the lines are too long for your kids (and you) to wait — you have your pick of other museums on the Mall.
Other general tips & info
– Free Timed Passes are available every Monday at 12pm for the following week. They sell out quickly, so be ready to reserve yours online as soon as it turns noon.
– If you have timed passes, all guests with you need them, even infants.
– A limited number of free same-day Walk-Up Timed Passes will be available at the Museum, with a line starting at 9:30am, and the passes distributed first-come, first-served at 10am. You can get real-time updates on availability on Twitter.
– You can purchase a special Kusama Circle Membership for $50, which lets you and a guest bypass the general admission line one time. Children under 18 are not considered guests and get in free with you.
– Other membership options are available at higher rates.
– Get tickets for a weekday if you can.
– Try to put your camera away as much as possible. You may spend so much time trying to get the perfect shot that you miss out on enjoying the art. Really, that 30 seconds flies!
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors will be on view at the Hirshhorn through May 14. Museum hours are 10am – 5:30pm, and word has it they are staying open until 7:30pm to accommodate guests with later passes.