You want to go see the wildly popular Infinity Mirrors exhibit by Yayoi Kusama at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C.? So does every other person who’s seen the crazy cool photos of the exhibit that have been overtaking social media. If you think you’re just going to saunter up to the Hirshhorn and waltz on in, you’re in for a disappointing surprise. People are lining up crazy early each day and still not securing tickets. Lucky for you I went, and waited, and found a fool-proof way to make sure you get into the exhibit with minimal wait time.
A little background on Infinity Mirrors
The exhibit is a celebration of artist Yayoi Kusama’s sixty-five year career and includes paintings that have never before been shown in the United States, the opportunity to enter six of her famous Infinity Mirror Rooms, and a selection of other key works that show the range of her career from performance art in the 1960s through today. The range and styles of her art are fascinating and if you do it right I think you’ll agree this is an interesting and impactful exhibit.
If you are new to Kusama’s work like I was, it’s important to realize the “mirror rooms” aren’t big spaces you walk around in. They are small rooms that are filled with art and mirrors, making them appear large. You are able to enter for a few moments, take in the mood Kusama has created, and move on.
Kusama Ticket Option 1: Reserve in Advance
The exhibition runs through May 14. If you go to the website, you’ll see two loudly hyped options for procuring passes. The first is to reserve an Advanced Timed Pass online in advance of attending. As explained on the site, free timed passes are released online every Monday at noon for the following week. If you are interested in these, set an alarm. They apparently get claimed almost immediately as thousands vie for a few spots. If you are actually able to do this it seems like a solid option—I just am skeptical of how realistic snagging a pass actually is.
Infinity Mirrors Ticket Option 2: Try For Day Of
If you don’t get advance tickets for your desired date, the museum also releases Walk Up Timed Passes each day at the museum. This sounds like a stellar idea until you realize the complete and utter train wreck it actually is. My friend and I made a last-minute call to try to catch the exhibit and therefore attempted this path for Sunday tickets.
Based on a bit of Googling, we figured we should get in line early to ensure we received passes. No big deal: we packed some folding chairs, a bottle of bubbles in a Vinnebago, some juice and magazines, and headed to the museum around 8:45 a.m. to wait—the museum opened at 10. By the time we arrived, the line already stretched the length of the museum, around a bend and halfway down the sidewalk. Ruh roh. We decided to stay positive and I went in search of coffee while my friend waited. As time ticked closer to 9:30, the line grew longer. A huffy manager importantly power walked by us with a counter clicker.
Then the fateful news came. He loudly announced that anyone on the sidewalk would not be receiving tickets to that day’s exhibit, adding that there are only 650 Walk Up Timed Passes available per day and anyone who wants to receive one should plan to arrive and wait in line at 7 a.m. on weekends and 8 a.m. on week days. On that day, people had started grabbing spaces in line at 5 a.m., he added.
As we, along with—literally hundreds—of other people evaluated our next move, we overheard Mr. Huffy Manager much less loudly telling a much smaller group of people that there were a limited number of memberships being sold that day. A membership guaranteed immediate entrance to the exhibit—no timed pass that might require leaving, killing several hours, and having to return much later in the day.
A new plan was made.
The Best Way To Get Into the Infinity Mirrors Exhibit
After a some searching we found the shorter, but still long and winding membership line. If you go, this line extends from the revolving door that enters into the Museum lobby. By the time we got to this line it was probably 9:30—for the Kusama exhibit on a weekend I’d suggest planning to get in this line around 8:45 a.m. and waiting it out until 10 a.m. (as it gets closer to the end of the exhibit, you may want to go earlier). The extra time you spend early will save you time waiting inside the exhibit where even during our time inside from around 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. the lines steadily grew as the day went on.
If you look on the website, it says there are two types of memberships available: Limited Edition Kusama Circle Memberships for $50 and Contributors Circle Memberships for $250. The $50 memberships are not sold online, however they are available in person if you wait in line. In addition, staffers will tell you a limited number are available each day, but the women selling them actually said they are available all day.
The $50 membership allows you and a guest a one-time opportunity to bypass the general admission line for the Infinity Mirrors Exhibit. Meaning, if you split the membership with a friend, for $25 each you can skip the general admission line and walk right in to the exhibit. In addition, you get a 10 percent discount on any single purchases up to $200 at the Hirshhorn Museum and Smithsonian Museum Shops. So basically you’re paying $25 per person for a guaranteed, no-wait ticket that means you can go right into the exhibit. Totally worth it in my book.
Like I said, I’d still wait in line early, though, because once you get into the exhibit, the main attraction—each of the six mirror rooms—has its own line and as the day goes on the line grows. If you are able to enter right as the museum opens, you’ll have the best chance at sailing through each mirror room with minimal wait time.
Other Things to Know Before You Go To Infinity Mirrors
- Plan at least two hours to get through the exhibit—two-and-a-half to three if you go later in the day.
- You are only permitted to enter the mirror rooms in groups of two or three. An attendant lets you in for a period of 20 or 30 seconds and that’s it, so take advantage of your time wisely.
- Bring a bottle of water because once it gets crowded the museum gets hot and the lines are long.
- Also on that note, wear comfortable shoes.
- Don’t try to bring any other open beverages into the museum. All bags are searched and the staff freaks out if you even try to walk into the lobby with open non-water drinks.
- You can take advantage of free lockers, located down a level from the ticket counter, along with the gift shop. Store any large bags as the staff won’t allow you to bring them into the exhibit—trust me the rooms are narrow anyway and you don’t want to be the person who breaks a Mirror Room.
- The actual exhibit is on the third floor—one level up from the ticket counter.
The Rest of Your Trip
Because the best way to snag tickets is to arrive early, I suggest making a mini trip out of your visit and heading up to D.C. a night early. Stay at the Hotel Monaco. Built in 1839 as the city’s original General Post Office, the hotel rooms contain every luxury along with original architectural details. In addition, the on-site restaurant, Dirty Habit, features a beautiful patio that’s perfect for a nightcap.
Just a few blocks away, we walked to one of my classic favorite restaurants for dinner, Jaleo by Jose Andres. The restaurant may have opened in 1993, but it still gets packed, so make a reservation. Instead of laboring over the menu, which is packed with enticing options, just go for the classic tasting menu—at $55 per person it’s plenty of food. My friend and I were both pleased with the range of selections that included several dishes we would not have ordered on our own but absolutely loved. I also added the wine pairing for $30 and thoroughly enjoyed the generous pairings with each course. This is only a small sampling of what we enjoyed:
In the morning, skip the Starbucks that’s close to the Hirshhorn and walk to Paul, a French bakery chain with roots dating back to 1889 that’s just .3 miles from the museum. We each went for coffee and a chocolate croissant—the fresh-baked flavors definitely made the wait a bit more bearable.