The Yayoi Kusama Exhibit
The Kusama Exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. which started in February 2017 became quite a sensation in Washington, D.C. After having visited the Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors Exhibit at Hirshhorn Museum in person, I would say that it was out of this world experience to me.
I found very helpful to know about the Kusama exhibit before going there because it is a very different museum experience from the usual ones. My two friends who had already gone to the exhibit and inspired me to go helped me prepare by teaching me some facts and details about the exhibit before I headed to the museum.
About Yayoi Kusama
The avant-garde artist and writer, Yayoi Kusama, was born in Nagano, Japan. She was born to an affluent family, but had a traumatic childhood due to her father’s extra-marital relationships and her mother’s abusive behavior caused by her father’s infidelity. Art was a form of expression for her to heal from her troubling childhood. Her concept of art is called “self-obliteration” and her trademark is brightly colored polka-dots which obliterate her from the world and be part of the universe. She moved to the U.S. to challenge her ability and talent as an artist in 1957 where she became recognized as an influential artist in the late 1960’s. She returned to Japan in 1977 and admitted herself to a mental institution. She has chosen to live there ever since and has produced her artworks from there. Her work and pieces were created based on what Kusama saw in her hallucinations which started at the age of 10.
When I was in her 3 dimensional installations, I did feel that the experience of being there felt like stepping inside of her head.
Getting Free Same-Day Walk-Up Timed Tickets
If you would like to go to The Kusama Exhibit at Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., you might want to check out this article “Everything You Need To Know About The Kusama Exhibit Before Monday’s Ticket Release”. It was helpful to me. My post here is not about the same content. This is more about certain things that were not written anywhere and I find helpful to know especially for those families who are interested in going to the exhibit with their children using the same-day Walk-Up Timed Passes.
I hope that my tips will help everyone especially families with their little ones to prepare for the visit.
I got off at the Smithsonian Metro Station and walked to the Hirshhorn Museum. I personally don’t recommend going to the museum by car during the week. There are parkings available around the Smithsonian, but the space is very limited and finding a parking spot near Smithsonian for over 3 hours is challenging (unless it’s a weekend day). You should expect to be at the Hirshhorn Museum for the Kusama Exhibit at least for 4 to 5 hours including your time to wait in the line for the free same-day Walk-Up Timed Passes. You won’t have the time to go back to your car to move it once you get in.
Most people that I know could not get tickets through an online portal for the advanced Timed Passes. You could certainly try, but I hear that it was almost impossible. Therefore, the more realistic way to get in (other than signing up to be a Hirshhorn Museum member) is to go to the Hirshhorn Museum before 9:30 a.m. on any given day before the last day, May 14, 2017 to line up for the free same-day Walk-Up Timed Passes. I was told that if you got there before 9:00 a.m., you would be most likely to get the same-day Walk-Up Timed Passes. The museum would turn away people who are lined up once they run out of the limited Timed tickets for each day. I arrived there at 9:07 a.m. and I was able to get in with my son. There were easily over 100 to 150 people lined up before my son and I arrived.
Wait To Get Free Walk-Up Passes Outside
You have to stay in a line or your spot will be gone. If you have a company with you, you can leave your spot to go to the porta potty set up outside of the museum. There is even a pop-up cafe. (All the tea cakes and scones were sold out when I stopped by after we finished viewing the exhibit.) The wait is long, so you might want to pack some snack and water. I lined up at 9:07 a.m. and received same-day Walk-Up Timed Passes for my son and myself at 10:45 a.m. for the 11:00 a.m. entry. Dress appropriately. Luckily it was a warm sunny day when I went. I can’t imagine what it was like to line up for the exhibit in February or March when the cold front hit Washington, D.C.
What To Wear
Comfortable shoes are recommended. I spent an hour and 45 minutes until I received passes in my hands. You will be on your feet the whole time you are waiting outside in a long winding line to get to the pass and also once you get inside the Hirshhorn Museum. In the exhibit, there are no chairs to sit until the very last room. My son and I were on our feet for 4 straight hours. Dress appropriately for the weather if you are going to line up to get free same-day Walk-Up Timed Passes since you will be outside the whole time and you may not have a cover or roof above your head depending on your arrival time.
They do not allow backpacks, food and liquid inside the exhibit. The museum offer lockers for free. I left my bag with water and snack, my purse and my son’s backpack in a locker. I hand carried my cell phone, iPod Touch which I used to take photos, and my wallet (just in case). It would help to carry a small shoulder pouch in the exhibit. Each locker was small. It would not fit a carry-on suitcase. Purses are allowed to bring (you can bring your diaper bag), but unless your purse is a small shoulder pouch style, you have to leave it on the floor outside the box when you walk into each installation.
Wait Time Once You Get Inside
Expect a lot of waiting to do inside also. Each wait averaged 30 minutes for us. We waited that long just to get 30 seconds inside each mirrored room, but it was well worth it. There is nothing to do when you are waiting except for talking with people around you and viewing some paintings and displays on the wall. Two to three people are allowed to get in each mirrored room at a time. If you go there alone, you might be able to view earlier if another lone visitor needs another person with whom she/he gets inside.
I believe that the Kusama Exhibit has been able to celebrate such a success in today’s world of selfies and social media because all the installations make interesting and one-of-a-kind photos, especially selfies. Everyone carried cameras and people are encouraged to post their photos on their social media accounts. (#infinitekusama) Since you only have 30 seconds inside each installation, I felt that I definitely wanted to take photos so that I could enjoy the second experience after I exit.
Tips For Taking Photos
Flashes are not allowed in the exhibit. Each installation is a mirrored room, so flash won’t work to take good photos anyways. The best is to use your phone to take photos unless you are really good at taking photos with your camera. You only have 30 seconds of chance at each time. There is no “can-I-stay-5-more-seconds-to-take-another-shot?”. While you want to take cool shots in the installation, you do not want to miss out on the experience by focusing too much on your camera. You want to look around and absorb what you see with your own eyes. What I did was that I positioned my camera in front of my chest and clicked many times in a hope that one of them turned out okay. Instead of staying close to the door, walk up to the end of the aisle and take photos. Photos would look better.
Once you enter this Obliteration Room, you are not allowed to go back into the exhibit. This was the most interactive room at the exhibit and you can stay as long as you want. You receive a sheet of polkadot stickers as you enter to stick them wherever you want in this room. What a fun activity for kids! My son loved this room and he had so much fun exploring. I loved being in this space. It reminded me of Holi celebration in India where you throw colored powders to people to wish good luck and celebrate the beginning of spring.
As I publish this post a month before the Kusama Exhibit in Washington, D.C. ends, I’m not sure how helpful this is. Nevertheless, I do hope that it will help some future first-time visitors to the Kusama Exhibit to prepare their minds for what they are about to experience.
If I find another opportunity, I would definitely go back again. I would love to take my whole family there, but I don’t know if there is a day that would not be too crowded. Good luck to those who will be visiting and I hope you all enjoyed my photos. Thank you for stopping by my blog!