Selfie-Crazed Visitors Can’t Resist Touching the Art at Yayoi Kusama’s Show in Indonesia

This is why we can't have nice things.

Yayoi Kusama, 
Dots Obsession (2009). Photo courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai, ©Yayoi Kusama.
Yayoi Kusama, 
Dots Obsession (2009). Photo courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai, ©Yayoi Kusama.

Where Yayoi Kusama goes, Instagram-crazed fans follow, and Indonesia’s new Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (Musuem MACAN) is no exception. Following the opening of the new exhibition “Yayoi Kusama: Life Is the Heart of a Rainbow” at the Jakarta institution last weekend, museum employees have been complaining publicly about selfie-seeking visitors getting dangerously close to works by the Japanese artist.

The Museum MACAN, the country’s first Modern and contemporary art museum, opened in November after months of delays. Founded by Indonesian philanthropist and art collector Haryanto Adikoesoemo, it features a collection of well-known Western artists such as Jeff Koons, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, and Andy Warhol, as well as artists from Indonesia and the rest of Asia, including Kusama. The current exhibition is her first major solo show in the country.

On Thursday, however, part-time staff museum member Amanda Aulia shared an Instagram story decrying visitor behavior at the museum, according to a report in the Jakarta Globe. Her photographs showed a sculpture where one of Kusama’s signature polka dots had been half rubbed away, a silver globe that had been pushed off its pedestal, and guests leaning on artworks, despite prohibitions against touching the art.

Images shared on Instagram of damaged and mistreated artworks at the Museum MACAN's Yayoi Kusama exhibition.

Images shared on Instagram of damaged and mistreated artworks at the Museum MACAN’s Yayoi Kusama exhibition.

“Some people simply can’t follow the rules,” Aulia wrote. Her story was then copied and shared on Twitter by @chanzino, named Janitra, who branded the misbehaving museum-goers “Instagram slaves” in a thread that has been retweeted over 2,000 times.

A spokeswoman for the museum told artnet News that no works have sustained damage. “We are aware of the speculation that has circulated on social media, and we can clarify that all the artworks in the exhibition are safe,” she said. “We have standard protocols which include: barriers, 24-hour security, security guards and museum attendants manning every installation, and monitored CCTV among others.”

She added that the “speculation is a reminder for visitors to appreciate artworks in a respectful manner and follow visitor guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable museum environment for everyone.” The museum has since reposted its visitor guidelines on social media.

(In a conversation with the Globe, MACAN communications officer Nina Hidayat noted: “Some visitors have touched the artworks, though we keep reminding them not to.”)

This isn’t the first time selfie-takers have disrupted a Kusama exhibition. Last February, a museum guest kicked a polka-dotted pumpkin inside a mirrored room in “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors,” at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, smashing the artwork. The guilty party was reportedly in the midst of taking a photograph when the accident occurred.

See more photos of works from the Museum MACAN exhibition below.

Yayoi Kusama, 
Infinity Mirrored Room – Brilliance of the Souls (2014). Photo courtesy of the Museum MACAN, ©Yayoi Kusama.

Yayoi Kusama, 
Infinity Mirrored Room – Brilliance of the Souls (2014). Photo courtesy of the Museum MACAN, ©Yayoi Kusama.

Yayoi Kusama, Life is the Heart of a Rainbow (2017). Photo courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York; ©Yayoi Kusama.

Yayoi Kusama, Life is the Heart of a Rainbow (2017). Photo courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York; ©Yayoi Kusama.

Yayoi Kusama, Narcissus Garden at the Venice Biennale (1966). Photo ©Yayoi Kusama.

Yayoi Kusama, Narcissus Garden at the Venice Biennale (1966). Photo ©Yayoi Kusama.

Yayoi Kusama, The obliteration room (2002–), installation view of "Yayoi Kusama: Look Now, See Forever" at the Queensland Art Gallery, Australia. Photo courtesy of the Queensland Art Gallery.

Yayoi Kusama, The obliteration room (2002–), installation view of “Yayoi Kusama: Look Now, See Forever” at the Queensland Art Gallery, Australia. Photo courtesy of the Queensland Art Gallery.

Yayoi Kusama, 
THE SPIRITS OF THE PUMPKIN DESCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS (2015). Photo courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai, ©Yayoi Kusama.

Yayoi Kusama, 
THE SPIRITS OF THE PUMPKIN DESCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS (2015). Photo courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai, ©Yayoi Kusama.

Yayoi Kusama, <em>Narcissus Garden</em> (1966/2002), installation view at the Museum MACAN. Photo courtesy of Museum MACAN, ©Yayoi Kusama.

Yayoi Kusama, Narcissus Garden (1966/2002), installation view at the Museum MACAN. Photo courtesy of Museum MACAN, ©Yayoi Kusama.

“Yayoi Kusama: Life Is the Heart of a Rainbow” is on view at the Museum MACAN, AKR Tower Level MM, Jalan Panjang No. 5 Kebon Jeruk, Jakarta Barat 11530, Indonesia, May 12–September 9, 2018.


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