RBC is the proud Lead Sponsor of the AGO’s presentation of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors.
A contemporary art icon may not seem like the most obvious person to start an Instagram revolution, but Japan’s Yayoi Kusama and her Infinity Mirror Rooms are causing both art aficionados and the social media savvy to pause for reflection.
Whether drawn to the epic installation to contemplate one’s own minuteness in the universe, or to plant yourself square in the centre of it to snap an #infiniteKUSAMA selfie, the popularity of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors continues to grow and generate conversation about the expanding role of social media in the way we experience art.
From March 3-May 27th, the Art Gallery of Ontario is hosting an arresting survey of the “Polka Dot Princess’s” critically acclaimed paintings, drawings, sculptures, and works on paper. Included are six of Kusama’s unique, surreal, immersive environments— small mirror-lined rooms that create the stunning illusion of infiniteness. Visitors can step or peek inside each chamber for a 20-30 second viewing that can make both the elements and their own reflections seem limitless. At once cerebral and psychedelic, the rooms date from 1965 to “present” and feature various experiments with light and sculpture to transport visitors to different dreamlike settings.
The Kusama Effect
The response to Kusama’s exhibition has been considerable as it travelled across major North American markets. Infinity Mirrors has shattered attendance records at some of the continent’s most-celebrated art museums and caused near-hysteria among art lovers and selfie-stalkers clamoring to obtain tickets.
- Washington Hirshhorn Museum welcomed an unprecedented 475,000 visitors between February 23-May 4 2017 at the building and sculpture garden while it hosted the exhibition.
- At LA’s The Broad museum, The LA Times reported 50,000 tickets sold out in under an hour.
- Toronto’s AGO was next in line to go Kusama-crazy. According to the Star, the first booking window for AGO Members saw 18,000 patrons join the online-only queue. Though not all hope is lost— there are also a limited number of same-day rush tickets available for sale at 10am each morning at the AGO box office.
Some attribute the wild success of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors to its ability to translate well to social media.
According to the Smithsonian Newsdesk, in May 2017, the #infiniteKUSAMA hashtag had reached over 91 million Twitter and Instagram users and garnered over 330 million impressions, making Kusama’s art a trend online. The exhibition not only gives visitors the unique opportunity to interact and engage with the art, it gives them a chance to document and display their experience in their own online spaces. Singled out by W Magazine as “The Most Instagram-able Art of 2017,” the slew of Kusama selfies may have sparked important conversation about the role social media plays in the way we enjoy art, while it continues Kusama’s own ideas around infinite repetition.
“Instagrammable Art” is often the subject of debate, as some galleries which forbade cameras are now encouraging patrons to share artworks on social media; however, social media can serve as a powerful venue for emerging artists to showcase their work, reach new audiences, and communicate with followers. This may be especially true in Canada where according to a 2017 study by Pollara’s, over 91% of the online population is active on social media.
Virtual spaces can be some of the most accessible and exciting places to discover and display art, and according to the Canadian Arts Coalition, that may be an exceptionally important part of the Canadian national identity. In 2016, The CAC reported that 87% of citizens considered art an important part of expressing what it is to be Canadian. With the prevalence of social media and availability of public arts funding and corporate sponsorship programs such as RBC’s Emerging Artist Project, developing artists in Canada may have more options than ever to create and exhibit their work.
The relationship between art and social media continues to evolve with exhibitions that invite visitors to integrate their tangible and online experiences. Whether Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors causes you to lose yourself in the moment or compels you to capture it, this avant-garde experience offers plenty of opportunity for reflection.
Image credit: Installation View, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, Photo: Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
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