You’ve heard about Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors opening at the AGO. Now, here’s a sneak peek

If you’re wondering why the outside of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is covered in dots, take a peek inside because the much anticipated Infinity Mirrors exhibit has landed in Toronto.

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, 88, has had an obsession with dots. She’s still using them in her studio, now painting them primarily on canvases and sculptures.

“For her the polka dot is a symbol of life, of nature of connectivity,” said Adelina Vlas, the AGO’s associate curator of contemporary art. “Back in the 60s she used to cover herself and the idea was that with dots you obliterate yourself… you shed any sign of individuality and you become one.”


Some of Kusama’s earlier work included phallic shapes covered in her famous polka dots. ( Martin Trainor/CBC News)

Toronto is the fourth stop on a six-city tour. Kusama’s exhibition opens at the AGO March 3 and will run until May 27.

The show has often sold out before the exhibit even opens. In January, people across the country logged onto the AGO website to buy tickets, many queuing with tens of thousands in front of them, ending up out of luck and without a ticket. Over the course of three days, the AGO sold about 30,000 tickets.

The gallery will put another block of tickets up for sale in a week.

“It’s unprecedented for us. I think we’re learning how to adjust to this demand for an exhibition,” said Vlas.

Infinity rooms are an immersive experience 

There are paintings and sculpture by the artist but the big draw is the six infinity rooms where dots, circles or lights are paired with mirrors, creating an infinitely repetitive experience that’s showing up all over social media.

“With millennials really accessing information about the show through non-traditional avenues like Instagram, we’ve had many visitors who are not regular museum visitors come to the show,” said Mika Yoshitake, curator of the Yayoi Kusama exhibit.

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors Souls of Millions

The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away is, perhaps, the signature Kusama installation and offers viewers, who enter the mirrored room alone in 20 second time slots, an out-of-body experience created through repetition and light. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

Probably the most photographed of all the rooms is The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away. Kusama created it in 2013 using LED lights and mirrors, building a room that feels like it’s as vast as outer space.

Visitors have 30 seconds to snap a selfie

Visitors will get about 20 to 30 seconds to experience each room before they are ushered out by staff. Since only a few people are allowed in at a time, the AGO had to put a lot of work into the experience people have while waiting in line for their turn.

Shiralee Hudson Hill is the gallery’s interpretive planner and recruited 100 volunteers to ease the process.


The final room is The Obliteration Room. It’s painted entirely white and visitors are given dots to stick anywhere they want. By the time the exhibit wraps up in Toronto, the room is supposed to be transformed into a colour explosion. ( Martin Trainor/CBC News)

“These are storytellers,” said Hudson Hill. “They’ll be in the exhibition telling all the amazing stories about Kusama, her work and her ideas.”


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