Yayoi Kusama in Yellow Tree furniture installation. Copyright Yayoi Kusama. | Image courtesy of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
The highly anticipated Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit has finally opened in Atlanta, taking over the entire second floor of the Wieland Pavilion at the High Museum of Art in Midtown. Already, social media platforms are flooded with #InfiniteKusama photos and selfies, an endless proliferation of images that would almost certainly amuse Kusama — if she knew what Instagram was.
The 89-year-old Japanese artist is regarded as one of the most influential of the 20th century. The Infinity Mirrors exhibit, which features numerous works that span her 60-year career, does not disappoint.
In addition to the immersive, mind-bending infinity rooms, the exhibition features more than 60 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, including many of Kusama’s infrequently shown collages. As you explore the exhibit, recurring themes emerge: nature and fantasy, utopia and dystopia, unity and isolation, obsession and detachment, life and death.
The High has never featured an exhibit quite like this (the demand for tickets has led to “Hamilton” comparisons), which is why visitors should start planning now. At a recent media preview, Midtown Alliance was invited to explore the exhibit and get insider tips from museum staff on making the most out of the experience. Here’s what we learned:
Read the FAQs.
When it comes to parking, ticketing, and what to expect at the exhibition, the Infinity Mirror FAQs provided by the High Museum are your best bet for a smooth exhibit experience. This includes information on how to obtain one of the 100 walk-up tickets that will be available for purchase every day.
Go with a group of three.
In a perfect world, it’s best to attend the exhibit as a group of three. Why? Up to three people at a time are allowed to enter the infinity rooms. Groups of four will leave someone out, while pairs may end up with a stranger in their Instagram story.
Have your phone or camera ready before you enter the infinity rooms.
You only get 20-30 seconds in each of the infinity rooms. If you’re trying to get that perfect shot for Instagram, be sure to have your phone fully charged, opened to the correct app, and ready to go as soon as the door closes behind you. Remember, editing and posting the photos can wait. Enjoy the immersive experience while you can!
If you want the double-take, be prepared to wait.
You are allowed to get back in line for a second chance inside any of the infinity rooms, but be prepared for long lines.
Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929), All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, wood, mirrors, plastic, glass, and LEDs. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore and Victoria Miro, London. Copyright Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carver. | Image courtesy of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
There are some places you can’t take pictures.
Because of the fragile nature of Kusama’s delicate glass pumpkins, you aren’t allowed to bring bags, phones or cameras inside the infinity room titled All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins. A member of the museum staff will also follow you inside, so don’t let that distract you from the experience.
Enjoy the infinity rooms, but don’t overlook the exhibit as a whole.
The Infinity Mirrors exhibit also includes autobiographical storytelling about the artist and works from as early as the 1950s. You begin to see how the scale of Kusama’s work grows throughout her career, from works on paper, to large-scale paintings, to her famous mirrored rooms. Here’s some perspective from a High staffer: “Slowly but surely, [Kusama] was trying to find larger and more effective channels to eliminate the self, expand consciousness, and allow the viewer to self-obliterate.”
Keep context in mind.
Kusama’s fantastical visual experiences are completely analog, created long before virtual reality and augmented reality technology. Here’s what one High staff member had to say about it: “The environment created by Kusama in the Infinity Mirror rooms is one that seems almost digitally mastered in its fantastical, endless quality. Going into the rooms, keeping in mind they are an analog setting, makes the experience (and visual trickery!) of the rooms even more astonishing.”
Read the labels.
You may find it hard to draw your eyes away from the mesmerizing art itself, but the labels provide additional context for experiencing the artwork. Learn about Kusama’s friendly rivalry with Andy Warhol. See if you can find one of her rare self-portraits. Follow her timeline through the United States, back to Japan, and how it influenced her art.
Non-flash photography is encouraged in all but one of the infinity mirror experiences. This piece, "Infinity Mirrored Room—Love Forever," allows for two viewers to peek into an infinitely mirrored experience complete with brightly flashing LED lights. | Art copyright Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Lillian Shaw
Make a day of it. Explore the High and Midtown.
Your ticket to the Infinity Mirrors exhibit will get you into the rest of the High, which features a recently reinstalled core collection. We asked a High staffer about other works that complement the infinity mirror experience: “Anish Kapoor’s Untitled is always a crowd favorite! I think it’s important to recognize its multi-sensory quality rather than just its visual aspects. Kapoor uses the surface to reflect sound back to the viewer in such a way that it’s hard to recognize where it may be coming from, even if from your own voice. Initially, it’s disorienting because you become convinced someone is speaking from behind you or something is being emitted from the piece itself. This altering of consciousness goes hand in hand with the Infinity Mirror rooms.”
Midtown itself has plenty of restaurants and attractions to entertain and delight you both before and after your Kusama experience. Use the IN*Midtown app’s “Discovery” feature to explore historical landmarks and 30+ public art installations throughout the Midtown district. Download the app for free on the Apple and Google stores.