Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture garden is a retrospective of Yayoi Kusama’s 65 year career. This must see exhibit will be on view until May 14th, the following is a review including tips on how to get your free timed tickets. If you’d like to see a photo essay of the exhibit click, here.
I’ve been having a really hard time getting tickets to Yayoi Kusma’s Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. And by hard time I mean, three consecutive Mondays I’d logged onto the Hirshhorn website only to have it crash or tell me that the tickets were sold out, within minutes! I know I’m not alone in my misfortune, some friends and I have a text chain and the inability to get Kusama tickets is a topic of regular discussion. So, I’d resigned myself to not go with my daughter even though I knew she’d love it.
My first trip to the exhibit had been to the press open house where the lines were short and the children were not allowed. I knew I’d like to write a piece once I knew what visiting the exhibit with a child was like. It was looking like I’d never find out, the website kept crashing for me when the tickets were released every Monday and standing in line for same day tickets with a toddler sounds like literally the worst way to spend a morning given that same day tickets are not a guarantee. But the recent snow storm worked in my favor when a friend decided she didn’t want to shlep her two kids over in the ice and wind and I was more than happy to take her tickets. My plans to hide out indoors and eat cookie dough turned into a day at the museum with my little sidekick, Ooey.
L’enfant metro stop greeted us with giant red dots outside the station, a hallmark of Kusama’s work. When we arrived at the museum, lines had formed next to the outdoor pumpkin statue for timed ticket entry holders (walk up tickets had been cancelled due to the weather). Next to that line was an equally long line of people who were hoping for the chance that a visitor had an extra ticket(s), they were shivering and understandably grumpy as they eyed the ticket holders with obvious irritation. We were early, and it was cold so I broke my coffee buying fast at the Dolcezza pop-up. The interior of the metal storage unit was covered in a mural that was instantly recognizable as the work of local artist, Kelly Towles. Ooey was charming the baristas with smiles so I took the opportunity to linger in the heat for as long as possible before heading to the line.
When our time slot was called forward to enter the museum a volunteer gave us a quick spiel about free lockers and parking for strollers which were not allowed in the exhibit. As quickly as you can with a toddler we parked the stroller and jammed our coat and bag into a locker. The line to enter the exhibit was nonexistent (yay snow day) and we were in, Ooey and I were here and I’d given her a hot cocoa from the Dolcezza pop up hoping the sugar would keep her awake for the exhibit.
Having been to the exhibit once without Ooey the pressure was off to see every last thing, my only goal was to see at least one infinity mirrored room together. Following the advice of the volunteer who’d spoke to us outside we went to the end of the exhibit and worked our way forward. The last room was what we saw first, the exhibit is in chronological order which means “All the Eternal Love I Have For the Pumpkins – Infinity
Mirrored Room” is Kusama’s newest infinity room (2016). Of all the rooms, this had been my favorite, the room was peaceful and quirky and filled with glowing pumpkin statues of various sizes. The line was the shortest of all the rooms, as the volunteer had said it would be, but even the 20 or so minute wait was hard with a toddler who would try to make a run for the room every time the door opened. When it was our turn the door opened revealing a garden of pumpkins and without hesitation Ooey walked in and began counting them. I think she’d gotten to five before our 30 seconds was up.
Since I’d taken hundreds of pictures during the press open house (For more images, here) I considered making this outing a no photo event. But, when you stand in line upwards of twenty minutes with a fussy todder, you want a picture to prove that you were there. I also wanted to capture that chubby little face when she saw the rooms for the first time.
We ended up seeing the insides of four of the seven Infinity Mirrored rooms, the selection was solely based on line length. We also sat on the floor and marveled at paintings, laughed, cried (Ooey) but we spent the most time in Infinity Mirrored Room- Love Forever which is by far the most accessible room. Two lines form to stick your head into this room which pulsates with vibrant colors and patterns, you see your head in the midst of this kaleidoscope and for my toddler, it was a pure delight. We stood in line over, and over again to spend a few moments peeking in. We’d seen as much as we could, so it was time for the final room, the point of no return.
Once you enter The Obliteration Room you cannot return to the rest of the exhibit, you are also handed a sheet of stickers. The room has the trappings of a home; a kitchen table, couches and chairs, a piano and a child sized table and toys – but everything is painted white. On top of the pure white are thousands of the little round stickers everywhere and anywhere. Ooey knew exactly what to do and took charge of the stickering, she also sat at the child sized table and looked at the books and blocks atop it. Someone was playing the piano and it would have been quite peaceful if not for the grumblings of people complaining about other people in the backgrounds of their selfies.
It’s strange to me that the work of a woman out painting her demons has become a narcissistic playground. Kusama herself is said to have no friends or hobbies, she paints every day. Her output is incredible and through her hard work she’s gained high acclaim and fortune. The more I read about Kusama the more intrigued I am, but it seems that the more people visit the exhibit-the more intrigued with themselves they become. The skeptic in me thinks that this exhibit would be way easier to get into if everyone in the city wasn’t trying to capture the perfect selfie for their social media profile (myself included), but I owe my friend some tickets so next Monday I’ll try again when they’re released and I recommend you do the same.
Tips for Visiting
- Tickets are released every Monday at noon for the coming week on the Hirshhorn website, here.
- Create a my Smithsonian ticket account in advance (infographic below)
- Visitors may request 4 timed passes at a time
- Children need a ticket
- Same day tickets are available, a docent told me the line starts forming at 8:45am on weekdays and 8am on weekends. (the museum opens at 10am)
- Strollers are not allowed in the exhibit, but there is an area to park them in the lobby
- Free onsite lockers are available to store coats and bags.
- This museum also has a 10am Wednesday story-time for children, it’s quite good. See here for more information.
- An event in collaboration with the National Cherry Blossom Festival will be a day long family celebration of Kusama’s work (but will not include tickets to the exhibit). The event will be Sunday April 30th from 10am-2pm. See here for more information.
*I had a reader contact me and inform me that the following hack may no longer work due to an update to the Hirshhorn Website* I’m Sorry!
How to Create a My Smithsonian Tickets Account
Once you succeed in selecting a time ticketed entry for the Kusama exhibit, you will need an account with My Smithsonian Tickets in order to finish the request. In the time it took my friend to create her Smithsonian Ticket Account she’d lost her coveted Kusama time slots, here’s a hack on how to prevent that from happening to you. By creating an account ahead of time you reduce your risk of losing your time slot, see the infographic below for a detailed look. Note that this was all done on my smartphone, I was unable to get the desktop version of the Hirshhorn website to take me to the Smithsonian Ticket Account login page where you can create your account. I recommend you login to this new account before you try and get tickets on the Hirshhorn website.
And if You Need More Kusama in Your Life, Check out these Titles
The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and Kusama collaborated on the Hans Christian Anderson version of The Little Mermaid, Kusama did the illustrations. It looks pretty trippy, and really cool.
Additionally she illustrated Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
You can also dive into Infinity Mirrors a book edited by Mika Yoshitake, the assistant curator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. She also has an autobiography called Infinity Net , and then there’s Yayoi Kusama which is considered the definitive guide to her work (also sold in the Hirshhorn gift shop).
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