Museum visitors have spent hours waiting in line at museums and galleries around the world to experience just a minute in one of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room installations. A selfie or Instagram post inside of one has lured hundreds of thousands of visitors worldwide.
The New York Times, writing about a free-to-experience Infinity Room at David Zwirner in Manhattan last month, called the rooms “the art world’s equivalent of Star Wars premieres.”
As the Aspen Art Museum installed its first Kusama room this month, it made plans for lines and online queues and trained staff to prepare visitors for the experience, though the relatively uncrowded ski town likely won’t have the hordes that major cities like New York and Los Angeles have this year.
Inside Kusama’s rooms, light reflects on a series of infinity mirrors and strung objects to create the illusion of standing in an endless galaxy of light and space. Kusama has been making versions of her Infinity Room since 1963, but they’ve found a new and worldwide audience in the age of the selfie and Instagram, making the 90-year-old art world legend a hero of the social media generation.
Titled “Where the Lights in My Heart Go,” the room installed in the Aspen museum’s second-floor corridor is a box measuring just under 10-feet high and wide. Visitors will enter through a small door. Once a guide closes it behind them and their eyes adjust to the darkness, they’ll find themselves in an uncanny landscape of reflecting dots.
As Kusama’s installation team took mirrors out of crates and constructed the room in the second week of December, the Aspen Art Museum was hammering out details on how to guide visitors into the experience and how to protect the work from snowy boots and such.
Kusama herself does not dictate details about the Infiinity Room experience, such as whether shoes are permitted or gloves are required or how long people should stay inside. The museum expects to allow up to three visitors inside at a time in two-minute increments.
“We want to find a happy medium,” said the museum’s Luis Yllanes, who oversees installations. “For us, it’s all about the integrity of the art. This is a work of art and we want people to treat it as such and respect it.”
He is unsure whether there will be crowds waiting for the museum doors to open when the Aspen show debuts on Dec. 20, but the museum has made extra crowd control preparations just in case. Patrons will line up first-come, first-served outside the room. During times when lines grow particularly long, the museum has set up a web-based queuing system — not unlike a restaurant pager — that will allow people to put down their name and receive a text message when it’s time to come back.
“Where the Lights in My Heart Go,” made in 2016, came to Aspen from an autumn installation at the Westport Arts Center in Connecticut, where about 300 people were coming to see it at peak times, according to Yllanes. The Aspen Art Museum has prepared for a similar volume during the busy holiday season after the opening.
But the prospect of lines, he urged, shouldn’t scare off people from coming to experience the work.
“Folks should not be dismayed if there is a long wait,” Yllanes said. “It’s up through May and there will be many opportunities to experience the work.”