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The first full Saturday of Infinity Mirrors arrived with a jolt at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The survey of Yayoi Kusama’s epic mirrored rooms is drawing enormous crowds to the museum. Meeting demand is proving to be a challenge as large as the artist’s work. “Infinite lines,” some of the first visitors to see the show quipped.
The show is marked by bottlenecks, which the museum anticipated. In the courtyard, where visitors are lining up to see the exhibit, the Hirshhorn has erected shipping-container spaces where people can at least queue warmly (and even pick up a cortado from a Dolcezza pop-up). But inside the exhibit, too, viewers need to stand in line for each of the six “Infinity Mirror Room” installations. Museum members who can skip the timed-ticket entrance can’t jump to the front of the line for rooms. Fans thirsty for #Kusamarama weren’t necessarily expecting to spend most of the exhibit checking their phones (but not taking selfies).
Making matters worse, one of the installations was out of order: A viewer smashed one of Kusama’s signature psychedelic pumpkins in “All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins” (2016) on Saturday, and the room was closed for a period of time, but is now reopen. No one can predict a bumpkin falling into the pumpkin patch while taking a selfie. But should the Hirshhorn have predicted larger crowds? We broke down the numbers to see how many people it can pass through the exhibition during its three-month run.
60 minutes in one hour times 7.5 hrs = 450 minutes
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, although to meet its first weekend crush, the museum stayed open longer, to 7:30 p.m.
Three viewers per minute (20 seconds each) times 450 minutes = 1,350 visitors per installation, per day
The Hirshhorn started with a policy of letting visitors see the exhibit one at a time, for 20 to 30 seconds a pop. But with logistical problems mounting, the Hirshhorn started ushering groups of 3 to 4 into the rooms at a time, friends or strangers.
Exhibit open for 80 days times 1,350 selfies = 108,000 total views per installation
It isn’t yet clear how much demand will drop to see the museum during the workday or once “Infinity Mirrors” is into the 11th week of its run. But if demand doesn’t drop, then the Hirshhorn will want to aim to make the show available to more viewers—by extending hours or wedging more people into each of the rooms with every viewing. For its first full weekend, the museum tried both.
6 (or 5) Infinity Mirror Room installations times 108,000 views = still 108,000 viewers
Seeing as how the museum saw a high of 284,000 visitors during the two-month run of 2012’s popular “SONG1” installation, the Hirshhorn may need to get creative to make it through Kusama.