First Thursday with SAM

Jarred and I eyed the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) on our first Saturday in the city while roaming to breakfast about a block from our apartment. I was personally ecstatic that we were living in such close proximity, but knew it would be a bit before I visited the museum for myself. I quickly forgot about the SAM as we had a full day of unpacking ahead of us. However, when we ventured to Target roughly an hour later (and still two full hours before the doors of the SAM opened) I was shocked to see crowds wrapped around the entire city block that encompassed the museum.


It didn’t take long after we were settled to realize what the main attraction was – Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors. Numerous banners indicated that Kusama’s exhibit would be on display until the 10th of September. Don’t judge my lack of culture, but prior to viewing the signs I had no clue who Kusama was or what infinity mirrors meant; other than the obvious – tons of mirrors. I also may or may not have thought Yayoi was a man. Spoiler alert: she’s a woman.




After some research I discovered that all museums in Seattle offer free admittance on the first Thursday of every month. I whipped out a calendar and planned my inaugural visit to the SAM. Thursday, September 7th would be my first blind date with Yayoi.


At the sound of my alarm clock on the 7th I swiftly jumped out of bed and dressed for warmth. Armed with a freshly downloaded novel I climbed the harbor steps a couple minutes before 7:00 in anticipation of snagging a quick latte before joining the masses. However, when I reached the pinnacle of the stairs I discovered that a multitude of anxious museumgoers were already lined up almost the length of a full block. In a game time decision I opted to forgo the caffeine in order to secure a spot before the queue expanded.


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As the people continued to funnel into line I settled into a comfortable stance and dived into my new book. The first thirty minutes or so sped by, but soon after I realized in my haste I had forgotten something vital – breakfast. Praise the Lord that my husband the nicest person ever and that I was only standing a block away from our apartment because once I told Jarred about my rumbling belly he sprinted over with a breakfast bar. Moral of every story: jbabe is the real MVP.


At 8:00 a.m. the museum dispatched several employees with Walkie Talkies to mingle throughout the crowds and begin to explain the entrance process. They informed the congregation that once the doors opened we would walk inside and form a new line to purchase a time specific ticket for the Infinity Mirrors. If you recall I mentioned earlier that admission into the museum on the first Thursday of every month is free. However, special exhibits, like the one I happened to be in line for, are not included in your free entrance. Go figure.


I was fairly content as I stood in line reading and people watching for the first two hours. I can’t say the same for the last hour of my outside waiting game as my feet began to hurt and I lost interest in my book. At 9:40 I was more than relived to see the same squad of museum employees meandering through the masses. This time they only broadcasted instructions to people who happened to be members of the museum. I wasn’t really sure what all of us common folks were supposed to do when we entered, but I guessed I’d figure that out upon arrival.


At last moments before 10 o’clock the doors were opened and everyone began filing into the museum in a very civilized and calm manner. After people had spent hours waiting I kind of expected it to be more of a frenzy. Well done you sophisticated Seattle art lovers.


We were herded like cattle down corridor after corridor in order to form the additional line for the actual exhibit tickets. I don’t know who Robert M. Arnold is, but my spot in the queue ended up being in a hallway outside his boardroom. After waiting in the new, inside line for roughly 40 minutes I found myself standing in front of the ticket counter. Over three and a half hours after leaving my apartment, I successfully walked away with a golden blue ticket for 11:00 a.m.




While I stood in yet another line for all 11 o’clock ticket holders I learned they allow a new wave of approximately 50 people into the exhibit every 15 minutes. I was immediately thankful I opted for the earliest time available instead of selecting an afternoon admission. The staff first prepped my group with tidbits – such as be prepared to wait in line (obviously we had that one figured out by now), don’t touch anything, leave all bags and purses outside the rooms and as designated by the artist, we would only be allowed 20-30 seconds in each room – before finally allowing us passage into the world of Infinite Kusama.




At the time I knew securing an earlier time was fantastic in terms of my wait time at each individual room, but I had no idea just how advantageous it would end up being until I gained access into the first room. I joined the small line of only about twenty people for the room Phalli’s Field, 1965. There were strict rules that only groups of two to three people were allowed inside each room at a time. However, after the museum worker was unsuccessful in locating a random partner to accompany me inside, she permitted me to enter this exhibit solo. It ended up being my absolute favorite of all the exhibits and in hindsight was so glad that I didn’t have a random person photobombing my pictures.


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For rest of the infinity mirrored rooms I was not as fortunate. The exhibit presented six rooms and various key artworks of Kusama’s. Photography was allowed in each room except the mirrored room of All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016. On this particular one a guard entered the room with each guest to enforce the no photography rule. I’m also going to take this minute to apologize for all the selfies, but this is what happens when you venture into a museum full of mirrors solo.

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Overall I absolutely loved my Thursday morning spent at the SAM. As I exited the museum a little after noon there were still lines of eager people wrapped around the block. I can confidently say that it was definitely worth the wait, but it wasn’t until I got home and continued reading about Kusama that I realized just how much hype there truly was around this artwork. Not only was the artwork fascinating, it’s also her first North American tour in over twenty years. Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors tour started in Washington D.C. before coming to Seattle. It will travel to Los Angeles next followed by Ontario and finish in Cleveland. If you find yourself in any of those cities over the next year do yourself a favor and go see it! I promise the lines are well worth it!

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