Yayoi Kusama Doesn't Care About Your Selfie


It was 2015, I had just arrived in New York a couple of months ago and just as every art-loving transplant was eager to unlock the endless list of museums and galleries the Big Apple has to offer. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw a flyer for Yayoi Kusama's Obliteration Room opening at David Zwirner gallery in Chelsea.

After patiently waiting outside for 40 minutes, I was finally handed a sheet of colorful stickers and told I had five minutes inside the room... Five minutes?! After almost an hour-long wait? I was both shocked and frustrated, but the real disappointment was still ahead.

Kusama's Obliteration Room is supposed to be a truly immersive, interactive experience; visitors are encouraged to cover the originally white room with colorful dots however they please; you can form patterns, color blobs, search for blank spaces and fill them in...

Little of that was happening inside the room, though, as people were way more concerned with taking the perfect selfie than exploring the artist's vision.

I remember not being able to walk around freely as I was always in someone else's shot. The places I wanted to access and stick up those dots were 'claimed' by some aspiring Instagram celeb doing a full-blown photo shoot. It sucked.

With the limited amount of time we were allowed in there, neither of us got to understand the medium or the message. That is why I'm quite fond to hear about Kusama imposing a new rule that will hopefully deal with the selfie-obsessed hordes.

Selfie in 30 seconds or less

According to sources, the Japanese artist's latest exhibition, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, adopted a strict policy allowing guests to spend not more than 30 seconds in each part of the exhibit. The show is comprised of six "infinity rooms" that combine light, mirrors and objects to create beautiful endless voids.

The 30-second rule aims to increase accessibility to the highly popular exhibit allowing more people to filter in and out. The move also follows an incident from earlier this year when a visitor smashed one of Kusama's pumpkin sculptures while taking a selfie. 

Yayoi Kusama's installation Infinity Mirrored Room: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Previously, at least at Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room: The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away at Los Angeles' The Broad museum, the time was limited to 45 seconds, which – and I'm saying this from experience – is already a very short time to both look around, understand the space AND take an Instagram-proof portrait of yourself.

While profits definitely come into play here – the 90,000 $25 tickets to Kusama's show in The Broad sold out within hours, and standby tickets are available for $30 – such rules should also remind us that we're to experience the art, not just use it as a nice backdrop to rake in more likes on social media.

Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors installation is currently on view at The Broad in LA until January 1, 2018. According to Architectural Digest, the artist will bring her work to New York this November.