Insta-bait Yayoi Kusama Exhibition *Finally* Opens at the AGO

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This past weekend marked the official public opening of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario—the only Canadian gallery in this exhibit’s run. Known for her exploration of sexuality and family through her iconic gourds, phalluses, and polka-dots, the Japanese artist carries with her all the trauma of her childhood breathing life to her contemporary art legacy.

Kusama’s large-scale portrait greets you as you enter the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Sculpture Atrium, not the location of the exhibit, but the queue. A major artist of her caliber, rivalling the work of Warhol in the 60s, requires some crowd control. Expect to be in multiple lines during your visit, one for each infinity room. And expect to be in each room for just under 30 seconds as the queues can run pretty long. My best piece of advice: book an early entrance time and line up at the shortest queues first—you’re welcome to experience the installations in any order!

Despite the wait, that half-a-minute window can be magical. Her all-expansive light installations playfully bring you to a peak of hyperreality for those few seconds. All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins presents a never-ending vibrancy of gourds. Dots Obsession is one of the more immersive spaces, where Kusama’s own poetry brings a more critical context to the fun pink and black spotted balloons. Don’t forget to visit the second floor of the exhibition down the spotted spiral Gehry stairs. One of the spaces that bookends the exhibition is the Obliteration Room, a bleak, interactive installation where you’re invited to contribute stickers to populate the space.

Call it cheesy—but the real magic is seeing the reaction of other guests experiencing the same works, Kusama’s colourful creations truly have an impact on people. In the age of social media, Kusama’s “Instgrammable” pieces have certainly found their market. While the photography, aesthetics, and more accessible of her works have contributed towards her revival as an artist, it is ironic to consider how commercial she is as an artist despite how subversive her work actually is. What Kusama’s introspective and personal exploration has brought to the art world is a more vulnerable art from an East-Asian lens. That vulnerability means a lot more currently, in a world where online identity invites a curtain. Guests are welcome to share their experiences with the hashtag #InfiniteKusama, opening a greater conversation on how we as a public perceive modern art.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors runs from March 3 to May 27, catch it before it leaves for Cleveland!