For 11 hours, Sarah Paige and Keefe Osment waited in line.
At times, they stood. When Starbucks opened at 5 a.m., they made a run to the coffee shop.
Mostly, however, they sat huddled under blankets outside the High Museum of Art, waiting for its doors to open at 9 a.m.
“This is our third time trying to see (“Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors”),” Paige said. “We tried to come two other times, and we’d just been too late or didn’t realize when we should have been here, so when we came the last time, (we learned) the first people got in line at 10:30 p.m. (the night before). We were like, ‘OK, if that’s what it takes,’ and we were here at 10:30 p.m.”
Paige, Osment and a friend, Britannie Miller, who joined them from Ohio at about 3 a.m., were certainly not the first — and they won’t be the last — to wait in line for hours to see the Kusama exhibit, which opened at the High on Nov. 18.
As the final venue in “Infinity Mirrors’” North American tour, the High has, every day since the exhibit’s opening, sold out its approximately 100 daily walk-up tickets, often with the 100th patron arriving before 7 a.m. Advance tickets, which went on sale to museum members on Aug. 27 and to the general public on Sept. 17, sold out by Sept. 19.
Walking through the exhibit, with its kaleidoscopic environments, large-scale installations, LED-lit sculptures and seemingly endless mirrors, it’s easy to see why: Kusama’s works are masterpieces.
“Kusama’s Infinity Mirror rooms open onto places within the imagination that are beautiful and transcendent,” said Michael Rooks, the High’s Wieland Family curator of modern and contemporary art. “Like sensory deprivation chambers, they leave the viewer grappling to reconcile the totality of the cosmos with a sense of microcosmic infinity within the body. It is an enormous privilege to present this foundational work by Kusama.”
Spanning the entire second floor of the High’s Wieland Pavilion, “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” allows visitors to journey through more than 60 years of Kusama’s work.
The exhibit begins with the Japanese artist’s sculptures, paintings and more infrequently shown collages, which she began after returning to Japan following a stay in New York City from 1957 to 1973.
In the same entrance room, a walkway leads visitors into “Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity” (2009), a mirror room filled with dangling LED lights that gives the impression of a starry night sky.
Then, “Infinity Mirrors” draws patrons through its other five rooms, which feature Kusama’s original landmark installation, “Infinity Mirror Room — Phalli’s Field” (1965/2016), along with “Infinity Mirrored Room — Love Forever”(1966/1994), “Dots Obsession — Love Transformed into Dots” (2007), “All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins” (2016) and “Infinity Mirrored Room — The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” (2013).
“The Obliteration Room” (2002), an all-white replica of a traditional living room setting that’s now covered with various-sized polka-dot stickers — each visitor is given a sheet of six stickers with the instructions to “put your colorful stickers anywhere you’d like in this room. Together, visitors will erase, or obliterate, all traces of the original white room” — concludes the exhibit, leaving many attendees in awe.
“(Kusama) has done some masterful work; she’s worth seeing,” said “Infinity Mirrors” visitor David Simpson. “She makes you open your eyes a little bit and changes your ideas.”
Though advance tickets are sold out and walkup tickets are hard to come by save for waiting hours in line, the High is selling an unspecified number of tickets for the show’s final week, Feb. 11 to 17, beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5.