Yayoi Kusama Retrospective Becomes Security Nightmare in Mexico

Blockbuster Kusama show drives up museum attendance.

Yayoi Kusama. Photo: courtesy the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

As the long world tour of the Yayoi Kusama retrospective draws to a close, crowds at the exhibition’s final venue, Mexico City’s Museo Tamayo, have proved more than the institution can handle, reports the Art Newspaper.

Titled “Infinite Obsession,” the show follows the retrospective organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Tate Modern in London, where it debuted in February of 2012. The original exhibition and the Latin American version share a co-curator in Tate’s head of collections, Frances Morris.

The current tour had already drew massive crowds of 2 million across four venues (see “South America Goes Dotty for Kusama“), so the Tamayo knew to expect an influx of visitors.

Nevertheless, they were unprepared to deal with the exponential attendance increase: where the museum previously saw an average of 5,000 monthly guests, they are now welcoming roughly 2,100 people each day.

“It has been a challenge,” Alfredo Esoíndola Vélez, chief of security at the Tamayo, told El Universal. He’s expanded his team, and offered extra training to handle large groups and answer inquiries from visitors. He described the increased workload as “rough and yet beautiful; sometimes it’s 12 hours of standing, with an hour’s break.”

The wait for entry has been as long as four hours, recalling the experience of New Yorkers in 2012 who wished to experience Kusama’s Fireflies on the Water. The mirrored installation required a special timed ticket for entry, and allowed visitors no more than one minute inside the piece. People also waited in long lines to take photos of themselves in her Infinity Rooms at her solo show at David Zwirner this past year, which made the artist an Instagram sensation. In addition to her popularity at museums and galleries, Kusama is also ranked as the third most expensive living female artist at auction (see “Who Are the Top 10 Most Expensive Living Women Artists?“).

Yayoi Kusama Fireflies on the Water

Yayoi Kusama, Fireflies on the Water (2012) at the Whitney Museum.
Photo; Courtesy of Robert Miller Gallery

The museum has to balance security and personnel concerns with budgetary ones, as the exhibition’s sponsor, the National Institute of Fine Arts, is entitled to the show’s ticket sale revenue.

Luckily, there is a light at the end of the tunnel: the exhibition’s last day is January 18, 2015.

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