How badly do people want to see work by Yayoi Kusama? Really badly. So badly, in fact, that 65,000 of them waited in frigid temperatures for hours on end to see the Japanese artist’s two-venue exhibition at David Zwirner in New York, which closed late last month. An additional 10,000 VIPs, press, school, and museum groups saw the show after hours, bringing the total number of visitors to an eye-watering 75,000.
The average daily attendance at the shows exceeded that of most museum exhibitions (which, for the record, don’t usually require up to six-hour wait times and place a 60-second viewing limit on certain works, as Zwirner did).
Kusama’s “Festival of Life,” held at Zwirner’s West 19th Street space, was particularly popular. Boasting two new infinity rooms and a psychedelic polka-dot environment, it welcomed more than 1,500 visitors a day during its 23-day run, a gallery representative told artnet News.
For comparison, the Hirshhorn Museum’s blockbuster Kusama show—which featured six infinity rooms as well as numerous works spanning the artist’s entire career—reported 2,000 visitors per day during its 80-day run last year (for a total of 160,000 visitors).
In fact, Zwirner’s Chelsea presentation drew more daily visitors than, for instance, the Met Breuer’s inaugural show of work by Nasreen Mohamedi (1,314 visitors per day); the Broad’s solo show of work by Cindy Sherman (1,253 visitors per day); and the New Museum’s well-reviewed exhibition “The Keeper” (995 visitors per day). (All museum figures are courtesy The Art Newspaper‘s 2016 attendance report.)
Unsurprisingly, Kusama’s paintings don’t have quite the same pull as her immersive installations. A solo presentation of the artist’s Infinity Net paintings at Zwirner’s 69th Street space drew several hundred visitors a day. (A gallery spokesperson notes that anything more than a handful of visitors “is very unusual for the uptown space.”)
Meanwhile, the Broad in Los Angeles, which recently hosted the artist’s traveling retrospective, was forced to impose a strict 30-second time limit inside Kusama’s Infinity Rooms to keep crowds moving and avoid selfie-related mishaps.
The formidable figures prove that members of the public—including those who don’t regularly visit art exhibitions—have not yet tired of Kusama’s brand of highly immersive, Instagrammable art.
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