Art in Toronto: Yayoi Kusama Survival Guide

This week I finally got my chance to see Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Rooms at the AGO. Given there are still more than seven weeks remaining in the show, I thought I'd share my tips on attending the exhibition. How I wish I would have known this advice in advance!

In Yayoi Kusama's  Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity.

In Yayoi Kusama's Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity.

1. Don't underestimate the time needed.

If you've been following the Kusama hype, you've probably read that the marquee components of the exhibition - the infinity rooms themselves - permit visits of only 20 - 30 SECONDS per person. I naively thought that I didn't need to budget much time for the experience.


Even though your ticket will be timed, plan for long lines, including the initial lineup to wait for the elevator. I believe we waited 20 minutes just to enter the Exhibition, and once in, each of the rooms had lineups. Because I didn't allow enough time, I didn't have the time to enjoy the non-infinity room parts of the show. Lineup, room, rush, lineup, room, rush... no idea.

2. Arrive early.

The elevator lineup.

The elevator lineup.

Even though your ticket is timed, I suggest lining up before your slot. Our official time was 11:30, but the lovely gentleman checking tickets allowed us to get started at 11:10.

3. Go mid-week if you can.

I planned months in advance to go the Tuesday after Easter. It was busy. I can only imagine the exponential weekend increase.

4. Wear comfortable shoes! And layers.

Ladies, this is not the occasion for wearing your Jimmy Choos. Comfort rules. Also, be aware that the infinity rooms can get quite stuffy, so if you're prone to overheating please don't wear a turtleneck sweater. You cannot bring bags into the rooms; however, there is a convenient location to leave your purse by the infinity room door (and one of the AGO staff) while you spend your 30 seconds inside.

5. Skip the first room.

I know, a sacrilegious suggestion, but hear me out: it is human nature for everyone to converge at a starting point. This will likely be the longest line of the day. If your time is limited, move on. Two of the people I went who waited in that line (I took one look at all the people waiting and shooed my six year-old daughter onto the next room) acknowledged they had made a mistake. Unless you're really committed to seeing infinite white, polka-dotted phalli, keep moving.

6. Go solo, or consider separating.

The AGO staff are very determined to ensure the maximum number of visitors allowed in a room at one time (usually 3) is met. If you are a twosome, you will be joined by a single, just like at the ski hill. Which brings me to... to get through the lines more quickly, you might want to consider the singles' line.

7. Talk to the AGO staff.


Can you imagine every thirty seconds having to repeat the same instructions again and again and again? There are lots of staff around who are delighted to talk about anything other than the entry rules. Better yet, when it's your turn why don't you tell them the rules (you will have already heard them numerous times), sparing their ragged voice boxes.

8. Go.

The show is worth seeing; despite the lines, you should go. It's a unique experience. And it's fun (notwithstanding the darkness lurking behind the whimsy as noted by Murray Whyte) and kid friendly, especially the Obliteration Room at the end where visitors are encouraged to put colourful polka dot stickers on any surface they desire. (Although I found the AGO rather chintzy in this regard as they only gave my daughter the stickers while the three adults went empty handed.) Moreover, if you have some additional time to kill at the AGO and you are with a young one (as happened to us when we arrived well before our scheduled start time), I recommend taking them to Mitchell/Riopelle: Nothing in Moderation and playing "guess the artist". I was happily surprised not only at my 6 year-old's enthusiasm for the game, but at her nearly perfect record of identifying the correct artist. (Another proud mama moment.)