We have been anticipating One with Eternity: Yayoi Kusama in the Hirshhorn Collection for a long time. The exhibit was originally scheduled to open in spring of 2020, but, well, we all know what happened. It’s finally opening tomorrow, April 1, and the wait for it, especially after all that we and the world have gone through, makes it even more exciting, more vivid, and more meaningful now.
The exhibit is smaller than Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors, which was an absolute sensation. This time there are just five major pieces, all of them part of the Hirshhorn’s permanent collection. Two infinity rooms (including one from the last exhibition) and the yellow and black polka dot Pumpkin are sure to be the most popular (ie, Instagrammed). Infinity Mirrored Room–My Heart is Dancing into the Universe is my favorite, a colorful, trippy walk-through that immerses you in glowing orbs and polka dots.
Other elements of the exhibit are also really interesting. Don’t miss the timeline of Kusama’s life and work — it’s fascinating. You can learn that she sewed parachutes in a military factory during World War II, how she wrote a letter to Georgia O’Keefe seeking advice on being an artist in the US (and got a response), that dots have been part of her work for a long time, she has written novels, and many more interesting details of her personal and artistic history.
While the last Kusama exhibit at the Hirshhorn was here for less than three months, this one will run for eight months, until the end of November. With more time for a chance to see it, this hopefully will make it easier to obtain passes. And I highly recommend going. It really will make your heart dance.
How to see One with Eternity
The Hirshhorn will distribute free same-day Timed Passes daily, Thursday – Sunday, at the Museum starting at 9:30am throughout the run of the upcoming exhibition. All visitors age 12 and up must have a pass. Children ages 12 and under do not need a passif they are accompanied by an adult passholder. Each adult passholder may bring up to two children into the exhibition and each Infinity Mirror Room. [Update:Next-day passes to the exhibit arenow being released daily at noon on the Hirshhorn website.]
You can also become a Hirshhorn Insiders member and reserve an available date in advance to experience the exhibit. Hirshhorn Insider memberships start at $100.
Tips & More Info * My guess is that, in the first few weeks, people will start lining up early each day to get free passes, well before the 9:30am distribution start time. If you’re very eager to see the exhibit, line up early to ensure you get passes.
* Keep in mind that you may get passes timed for later in the day, so have a plan for other things to do until it’s your time to go. This shouldn’t be too hard considering all of the other nearby museums.
* There may be lines and waits to enter the Infinity Rooms, so be prepared for that, especially if you’re with young kids. Perhaps bring along something to keep them occupied in case you have to wait.
* Strollers are allowed in the exhibition galleries but not inside either of the Infinity Mirror Rooms.
The National Postal Museum just reopened in late August for the first time since March 2020, the last of the DC Smithsonians to once again welcome visitors. I was running an errand nearby yesterday, so I decided to pop in for a little museum fix and see what is/isn’t currently on view, and to enjoy what I think is one of the most stunning spaces in the city.
The museum is in the Postal Square Building, which was DC’s main post office from 1914 to 1986
I’ve always recommended the museum as a particularly great one to visit with young children. Located in the Postal Square Building between Union Station and North Capitol Street, it doesn’t draw the big crowds that its Smithsonian counterparts on the Mall often do, which is especially nice right now. And the space isn’t huge, making it easy to explore with little ones. That said, it’s appealing to all ages and fantastic to visit without kids, too, like I just did…
Mailboxes from around the world
Since there’s already a whole KFDC write-up about the museum, this post of scenes is really just a reminder that it’s open again and a strong recommendation to go, plus a quick update of what’s on display and some highlights. The Pony Express area is closed, but most other exhibits are currently open. You can digitally design a stamp and start a collection in the Stamp Gallery, learn how the post office serves cities and scan and sort mail, read letters sent to and from soldiers in WWI, and go Behind the Badge to explore the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. And the lofty atrium featuring airmail planes, mail trucks, a train car, a horse & buggy, the trailer of a semi that you can climb aboard, and other large-scale modes of mail transport is as stunning as ever.
Social distancing indoors at the National Gallery of Art
More and more indoor places around the DC area are figuring out how to safely open their doors to visitors again. I’ve been to a couple of Smithsonian museums and felt very comfortable and safe with the extra measures taken for COVID — and was very happy to wander the galleries and enjoy art in person once again. As weather gets colder and our itch for outings that aren’t outdoors grows, having some go-to indoor spots will be appreciated by many. (But, of course, everyone should do what they’re comfortable with during this unusual and uncertain time!) Here’s a handy list of them, and I’ll continually add to it as more places reopen. Happy revisiting!
When: Thursday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm
Where: 925 13th Street NW | Downtown DC
Admission: Free timed entry passes required COVID policies
National Building Museum Where: 401 F Street NW | Judiciary Square, DC
When: Friday – Monday, 11am – 4pm
Admission: $10/adult, $7/child (free for members) COVID policies [Note: It’s free to hang out in the Great Hall, most exhibits require admission.]
When: Indoor areas Thursday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Where: 12100 Glen Road | Potomac, MD
Admission: Free with timed-entry tickets Covid Policies [Note: There is also an outdoor area that shouldn’t be missed.]
Make a wish at Yoko Ono’s “Wish Tree for Washington”
You can’t really go wrong with an outing to the National Mall. There are always museums to visit, exhibits and memorials to check out, and just so much to see as you wander. Here are a couple of new exhibitions running at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden this summer to keep in mind next time you’re on the Mall. It’s easy to stop by to see them — no tickets required, and admission to both are free!
Ai Weiwei makes a political statement in LEGOS
Opening today, “Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn” is a massive installation spanning 700 feet all the way around the museum’s second floor, featuring portraits of 176 indivisuals from around the world who the artist believes to have been detained, exiled, or have sought political asylum as a result of their actions, beliefs, or affiliations.
Like many of his works, it makes a political statement and is pretty heavy for kids. But also like many of his works, there’s an aesthetic element that will appeal to all ages: It’s made entirely of LEGOS! While you might not make a special trip to see it with children, I recommend stopping by if you’re at the museum or nearby. It could be a conversation starter if you want to discuss those topics with your kids. It’s also a chance for them to see how they can create art with their everyday toys. Apparently, Ai Weiwei chose LEGOS as his medium because his son was playing with them a lot. The exhibit runs through January 1, 2018.
In the Sculpture Garden, be sure to stop by Yoko Ono’s “Wish Tree for Washington,” where visitors are encouraged to write their wishes on tags and tie them to a Japanese dogwood tree. It’s quite a sight to see them all lining the branches — and interesting, moving, even amusing to read some of them. Throughout the summer, Hirshhorn staff collect the wishes and send them to Ono’s “Imagine Peace Tower” in Reykjavik, Iceland. You can add your tags with written wishes through Labor Day, and the rest of the year you can whisper them to the tree.
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.