Lines are forming again and again in New York just in time for the auction season. But one line in particular, at the corner of David Zwirner’s gallery in New York, is spreading the greatest thrill amongst people. Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, known for having shows no less than sensational, is back to New York after her highly acclaimed 2012 retrospective at the Whiney Museum of American Art. The very catchy title of the exhibit “I Who Have Arrived From Heaven” alone reinforces the myth of Kusama the obsessive artist, Kusama the uncanny mind, and the endless visions of her eccentric world.
Yayoi Kusama joined the gallery in early 2013 so this show is in a way an honorific inauguration of her contract with the dealer. For the occasion, Yayoi Kusama who (by the way) is 84 years old is currently on leave from the Japanese psychiatric hospital where she resides yearlong. The new show features 27 of her newest paintings, a video entitled Manhattan Suicide Addict and two “infinity rooms”- the jewels of the exhibit.
In 2012, I had the chance to see Kusama’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum and was very lucky to experience her Fireflies exhibition. Every visitor blessed with a “minute” to the installation was granted access on his or her own and intimately submerged in Kusama’s environment for a rapid 60-seconds time lapse. People waited hours and hours to enter the installation. Some came back on different days and on several occasions in an attempt to obtain a “minute” to Kusama’s Fireflies as minutes sold out in seconds.
Although one can’t purchase “time” in advance, a similar organization process has been adopted at Zwirner. Visitors are allowed to stay 2 minutes in Love is Calling the fluorescent polka-dot universe installation. For the radiating installation Infinity Mirrored Room – The Soulds of Millions of Light Years Away a limited number of 2 to 3 visitors can enter the room at a time and for a very limited time of 45 seconds.
Can art really be enjoyed and experienced at the push of a chronometer? Does traffic-management prevail the art in this case? And more importantly, when I come to think about the meaning of all this, is the trouble really worth it?
Blockbusters are not a new phenomenon in art. But crowd management is.
Both waiting and time-consideration become part of “museum rituals”, a concept Carol Duncan discusses in her book Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums. Although a commercial gallery, David Zwirner’s newly opened 30,000-square-foot and five-story-building exhibition space resembles more a modern museum than a gallery. The scale and scope of its collection and the gallery’s numerous collaborations with acclaimed artists are worthy of museum standards. In fact, the line at Zwirner’s reminds us of other major events and blockbusters of which the most recent is probably the Rainroom exhibit at the MoMA where the 74,222 visitors waited for an average of 3-4 hours each to get a glance at the short 2.5 month show!
High popularity attracts high demand and thus a frequent possibility of exercising the “ritual” of waiting for art. So yes, it is worth the trouble! After all, it seems that people do have to endure purgatory before ascending to Kusama’s Heaven…