"My entire life has been painted here," reads a portion of text written by Yayoi Kusama that's currently emblazoned on a wall in David Zwirner's 20th Street gallery in New York City, which is now home to the 90-year-old's latest exhibition, "Every Day I Pray for Love." It's a message that resonated with quite a few visitors at the show's official opening on Saturday night—at least, those who were able to get a glimpse of it. Doing so required braving the cold and the possibility of a line that would stretch on for hours, like the one that a record-breaking 75,000 visitors weathered during Kusama's last Zwirner exhibition, in 2017.
This time around, there's a bit of a loophole: Forgoing the 60-second Instagram opportunity inside Kusama's latest Infinity Mirror Room means visitors can skip the wait. (When capacity allows it, anyway.) We spoke with a few of the diehards who'd never consider such a thing, from longtime fans to teens and septuagenarians who hadn't heard of Kusama until that very day.
Bobby, 32, systems engineer for New Jersey Transit; Nancy, "over 21" (61), artist and art teacher
B: "We literally just met. We were talking about the work that's on the floor."
N: "I came from Rochester, New York just for this. I teach K-6 art, and I taught my students about her why she paints polka dots."
Valentine, 4, Kusama superfan
"I waited for... maybe 15 seconds? She's my favorite. I've worn [this wig] since I was two. That was my first infinity room."
Tasheema, 29, freelance stylist and consultant
"We waited for an hour. It was a little cold, but I got this Uniqlo heat tech turtleneck, and it's actually working."
Bradon, 22, student in Albany; Caroline, 19, student in New Paltz
C: "We came here specifically for this, and made plans when I first heard about it—about three months ago. My birthday is soon, so...."
B: "We waited in line for almost two hours, which isn’t too bad. I was expecting it to be worse. I was excited about the infinity room, and that was cool as fuck, but the rest of the stuff is insane."
C: "Long live Yayoi! She's so great."
Stefan Eins, 79, artist and science researcher
"I was not aware of the artist’s existence, actually. But I’ve been to the gallery many times before, of course, and I saw something in the New York Times. I’m impressed that the woman is 90 years old. I like the infinity component—it relates to some of my work."
Ellie, 29, nurse practitioner student and painter
"It's pretty inspiring. The way Kusama describes it in the wall text, as this work being her entire life—I was like, okay, that’s deep, I’ve really gotta see it and see what it evokes for me, too."
"I’ve been to many infinity rooms—I’ve driven all over the country. I tried to go to the one in Washington, D.C., but we couldn’t get tickets. So my assistant and I got in the car and drove on over to the one in Cleveland, Ohio. What I most appreciate about her work is that as someone who's suffering with mental illness, she shows that no matter what you’re going through, you’re still a valued member of society."
Steven, 20, photographer and student; Will, 19, photographer and student
W: "I just heard of [Kusama] today."
S: "I knew about the show for a while, and I’ve always wanted to experience it. But I was also just interested in what there would be other than the room."
W: "We did almost sneak in. [Laughs.] We walked by when they opened it, so we got a little peek."
Shanté, 29, chef
"I went to her show a couple of years ago—it was a Wednesday, so I only had to wait an hour and a half. It's worth it every single time, but I'm going to save the infinity room for another day."
Anna, 65; Mario, 70
A: "I’m not waiting to go in [the infinity room]. I think it’s interesting, but if you know the full work of Kusama… I always say she’ll be the next Louise Bourgeois, though they work with fabric very differently—Bourgeois is very sad, and Kusama is very happy and very alive. I think she’s the greatest woman artist in existence."
Gretchen Fletcher, 79; James Fletcher, 56
J: "My mom and I were together [in the infinity room], so in a way I felt like I was born again. [Laughs.] We're both art lovers."
G: "I read about it in the New York Times. We were going to be in town anyway—we came for the premiere of Ahknaten, the opera by Philip Glass. I thought I was the oldest one here. But [compared to Kusama], I guess I'm just a kid."