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High Museum Director Reflects On Success Of Kusama Exhibit

The highly anticipated "Infinity Mirrors" exhibit opened in November at the High Museum of Art.
The highly anticipated "Infinity Mirrors" exhibit opened in November at the High Museum of Art.
Credit Courtney Kueppers / WABE
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These past few months have been a very exciting time at the High Museum. The exhibition of works by the artist Yayoi Kusama has been a blockbuster for the institution, which saw a high volume of ticket sales, long lines and many patrons passing through the museum’s doors.

That’s a lot of polka dots.

“By the time we’re all said and done, about 135,000 tickets will have been sold,” High director Rand Suffolk told “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes.

“We went into this hoping that it would not only be a memory maker not only for the museum itself,” he said. “But ultimately, be a memory maker for the city of Atlanta.”

High demand for tickets has led to some unprecedented sights around the Woodruff campus, not least of all being lines of tents and people camping outside of the museum for walk-up tickets.

“I’ve been a museum director for 21 years,” Suffolk said. “I’ve never experienced anything like this before.”

“Dots Obsession –Love Transformed into Dots, 2007” highlights Kusama’s signature polka dots. (Courtney Kueppers/WABE)

The “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” exhibit began its tour through the United States two years ago this month at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Along the way, it has proven to be a technical challenge for museums, as Suffolk points out, having crashed ticketing websites in Seattle and D.C.

“We’ve all tried to learn since then,” he said. “One of the unintended consequences of this is the museum’s built some new muscles. When you’re dealing with a few thousand people every day, managing the logistics of that, making sure that everyone’s having a remarkable experience within the gallery itself, that’s been great learning for us.”

“Dots Obsession –Love Transformed into Dots, 2007” highlights Kusama’s signature polka dots. (Courtney Kueppers/WABE)

“At the same time,” Suffolk says, “I think there’s been some behind the scenes things that have happened in terms of the technology we’ve needed, the upgrades we needed to do to ensure that it’s as much of a seamless process as we can.”

This beefing up of the museum’s infrastructure will no doubt help carry it into the next major exhibit in April, featuring European masterworks from the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

“Yayaoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” is open through Feb. 17.