TORONTO – The Art Gallery of Ontario wants the success of its recent Infinity Mirrors exhibit to go on, and on, and on – and so it’s turning to fans of last spring’s showcase to help it buy an Infinity Mirror Room for its permanent collection.
An online crowdfunding campaign began Thursday and, if successful, would add an Instagram-friendly mirror-lined room to the Toronto gallery this spring.
Stephan Jost, the AGO’s Michael and Sonja Koerner director, says fans have 30 days to help the gallery reach its target of $1.3 million for the $2-million purchase.
He says the AGO has secured $1 million for the plan, and is asking the public to provide an extra $300,000 to help pay for ancillaries, including the campaign and setup of the immersive piece.
The AGO extended its hours to accommodate more than 165,000 people who caught “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” last spring, when crowds lined up around the block. At the time, visitors were allowed just 20 to 30 seconds in each kaleidoscope room.
Jost wouldn’t say how much time visitors would have at an AGO-bought room, but noted visitors would be able to return again and again. The InfinityAGO campaign is at Infinityago.ca.
Jost expects the unorthodox funding plan would help the AGO forge deeper ties to its youthful audience – he says 29 per cent of visitors last year were between the ages of 20 and 30.
“We’ll have probably thousands of people giving us $25 and my hope is all those people can say to their kids or grandkids or nephews or nieces, ‘Hey, I bought that for the AGO’,” says Jost, noting that the gallery also sought the public’s help in 1958 to buy a reproduction of Jacopo Tintoretto’s “Christ Washing His Disciples’ Feet,” which cost $85,000 at the time.
“There’s probably easier ways to raise $1.3 million, but I really feel like it’s a really important way to do that so that, really, the public is a part of the AGO.”
Jost says the AGO is hoping to acquire the third edition of a recently designed Infinity Mirrors room that has never been exhibited in Canada.
Details will be announced as funds are raised, but the name and image would only be revealed if the campaign is complete.
“The only hint I can give you is that it’s larger than most of them,” says Jost, adding that it would go into a temporary exhibition space and wouldn’t displace anything currently on display.
VIDEO: Incredible Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms prepare for Canadian opening
Jost says 18 museums around the world have an Infinity Mirror Room in their collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and The Broad in Los Angeles.
This would be the first Infinity Mirror Room acquired by a Canadian public art museum and would likely be “the most expensive work in a decade we buy,” he says.
While last spring’s exhibit inspired countless Instagram posts of selfie-driven visitors, Jost says he believes the enthusiastic audience also recognized the deeper power of the celebrated Japanese artist’s work, calling her “a truly great artist.”
“She’s the only artist who links pop art, minimalism and performance art, which are three really important movements,” says Jost, expecting that will resonate with many fans.
“When people fall in love with a work they come back and visit it, we know that. When you see a Monet and you have a connection to it, people will then go back to see that painting again.”
And he fully expects to reach the gallery’s financial target in 30 days, especially with a targeted campaign.
“The secret advantage we have is everybody bought their ticket online so we have the contact information of people who came and loved it. That’s not just a random thing, it’s over 100,000 people (who) bought (a) ticket.”