Back in 2012 the Tate Modern staged a major retrospective of the work of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama which featured several of her infinity rooms – spaces which use mirror to give the illusion of vast distances. I remember lingering in them at my leisure, admiring the infinitely receding spots (a Kusama trademark). But that’s all in the past. Nowadays Kusama is hot, and to see her infinity rooms at the Victoria Miro gallery you need to queue.
There are three infinity rooms on show, along with three of her famous pumpkins and a room of paintings. Queuing length varied. We went on a Friday afternoon when queuing time per room was about 20 minutes, and time in the room (precisely measured by a gallery assistant with a stop watch controlling the door of each room), varied from 20 seconds for two people to 40 seconds for four. Some people told tales of getting a whole minute to themselves by arriving early in the morning, while the assistant warned us not even to think of turning up on a Saturday when queues are horrendous and viewing time even shorter.
Kusama’s signature pumpkins were on display as you waited – three new ones made of mirror polished bronze.
And yellow pumpkins filled the most effective of the infinity rooms, All the Eternal Love I have for the Pumpkins, where they were ranged around the floor and reflected in the mirrored walls and mirrored glass ceiling.
Chandelier of Grief was, for me, the least effective room, simply because a chandelier seems like such a conventional image. Chandeliers and mirrors are natural bedfellows, lacking the quirkiness of pumpkins and mirrors. The catalogue says that the lights in this room are choreographed to flicker in varying pulses and rhythms – a bit hard to detect in 40 seconds.
Where the Lights in my Heart Go, a polished stainless steel room pierced by small holes to let in daylight, was an effective experience but makes for unexciting photos – you’ll just have to take my word for it that its effect was mystic and dreamy. The mirrored outside of this infinity room might have created interesting reflections of the garden in which it’s placed if it wasn’t for the queue of people snaking around it.
The garden is permanent home to Kusama’s Narcissus Garden, mirrored spheres floating in a pond that rearrange themselves as the wind blows them.
There were no queues for the large upstairs space where Kusama’s paintings were displayed, but then a painting is not as exciting as an infinity room.
As we left, the queue outside the gallery was beginning to stretch down the street. I was glad I’d gone with a group of friends; queuing is tolerable when it’s a social experience. If you’re going on your own make sure you hit that early morning sweet spot. If you must go on Saturday, check the Victoria Miro twitter feed for queuing times.
The Victoria Miro Gallery is in Wharf Road, near Old Street tube station. More of Kusama’s paintings are on show at the Victoria Miro in Mayfair. The show is on until 30th July and the gallery’s open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm.