The AGO’s presentation of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors in Toronto is a hot ticket. If you manage to score some tickets, the question is: do you or do you not bring the kids?
We lucked out (after 8 hours online) to get three tickets to experience the 88-year-old poppy-red-haired Japanese artist’s exhibition of 90 works and six immersive infinity rooms on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario until May 27, 2018.
For kids, the larger-than-life, playful and colorful kaleidoscope-like rooms, paintings and sculptures are pretty cool – and worth the wait if your kids can handle it. We went late afternoon and probably waited no more than 10-15 minutes per room. (And hey, we’ve stood in what seem like longer lines at the grocery store.)
The line-ups do move somewhat quickly as staff is plentiful, engaging and constantly ushering people in and out every 20 seconds. (Yes, the limit is 20 seconds in most rooms.) The staff has stopwatches. There is a knock on the door and 5 seconds later, the door, whether you like it or not, swings open.
If you’re contemplating a kid-free or family excursion, we complied some important info to help plan your visit.
SHOULD I BRING MY KIDS? No part of this exhibition is targeted for a kid audience. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring your little ones. As with any destination, it ultimately depends on you and your kid(s). While it’s an immersive experience, it is NOT a hands-on experience (except for Obliteration – see end.) While the galleries are quite spacious, there is no running (of course) or touching. The Infinity Rooms are tiny (capacity 2-3 people) and are impressive and memorable for any age.
IS THERE ANYTHING GRAPHIC OR MATURE CONTENT? Yes, but that depends on how much you want to share with your kids. There is some photography of Kusama’s artwork in the 60s where performers are naked and covered with dots. It’s subtly presented in the context of her life’s work. I did however have my first discussion on the meaning of “phallic.”
HOW LONG IS THE WAIT? You’re free to roam anywhere in the exhibition once you’re admitted (as per your timed ticket.) Every room had about the same wait 10-15 minutes. I asked the staff and they said it’s pretty constant. However, as the end of the day approaches, the exhibition is quieter as no more people are let in.
WHAT SHOULD YOU BRING? Backpacks are never allowed in the galleries or exhibitions. For the Infinity Rooms, purses, small bags and jackets can be left in small bins outside of the rooms and picked up 20 seconds later. I highly recommend bringing a camera or phone and even equipping your littles with their own to capture the experience from their point of view.
HOW MANY KIDS IN TOW? So, one adult must be present for every two children in the exhibition. Most rooms are either 2 or 3 people. (For the pumpkins it’s two – so I had to go in with one and then in with the other afterwards.)
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GO THROUGH THE ENTIRE EXHIBITION? That depends on your kids and their attentions spans. We spent about almost 2 hours (we didn’t spend long looking at the paintings and sculptures as we prioritized the rooms.) The thing is you can stay as long as you want, bounce from room to room and repeat them if you want. There is no set circuit.
WHICH ROOMS SHOULD YOU VISIT? You should do them all! Every room is mesmerizing and unique. You can take photos in all except for the All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins – the pumpkin room. My favourite was the Infinity Mirror Room: Love Forever that has two peep holes. Each kid went on either side – it was pretty neat looking at each other.
My eldest liked the Infinity Room: Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity (inspired by paper lanterns.)
WHAT CAN YOU TOUCH? The last room is the Obliteration Room – this was my 5-year-old’s favourite. This is the polka dot room where every visitor can leave behind a series of colourful polka dot stickers – anywhere – on what had started out as a pristine white space filled with muskoka chairs, desk and computer, bookshelves, dining table and couch, a bike etc.) And you are allowed to sit and touch the articles in the space. Note: once you enter this room, you can’t return to the exhibition, so like it or not, it’s the last stop.
The infinity room in the gallery with the enormous floating pink polka dot balloons – Dots Obsession: Love Transforms into Dots – was probably my least favourite – but there is one ‘balloon’ that you can look in. It was pretty cool and there was generally no line-up there and the kids could do it themselves.
HOW DO YOU GET A TICKET: All visitors require a timed ticket (you have a 30 minute window to enter.) Children 5 and under are admitted free but still need a ticket. (This includes if they are carried or in carriers.) Advance tickets are available online only.
NEXT DATE for tickets: MEMBERS – MARCH 20th and for the PUBLIC – MARCH 27th at 10 a.m. (Four tickets per transaction.)
WHAT IF YOU DON’T GET ADVANCE TICKETS? There is very limited number of same-day tickets released on-site each day at 10 a.m. (Limit two per person.) Note that the line-up is outside and there is not a separate line for AGO Members. Note: Narcissus Garden in located on Level 2 of the galleries (if you’re an AGO member you can see it for free anytime.)
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO AFTER? As you exit via the gift shop, head to Level 2 to see the 1,300 silver balls. Then go outside and run their butts off in Grange Park. Truthfully, the playground behind the AGO may have been their favourite part of the day.