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News / December 13, 2017

Ticketing Chaos Hits AGO’s Kusama Show

Four hours. Six hours. More than twelve hours. This is how long many Art Gallery of Ontario members had to wait online to buy tickets for "Infinity Mirrors."
Yayoi Kusama, <em>All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins</em>, 2016. Wood, mirror, plastic, black glass, LED. Collection of the artist. Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore and Victoria Miro, London. © Yayoi Kusama. Yayoi Kusama, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016. Wood, mirror, plastic, black glass, LED. Collection of the artist. Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore and Victoria Miro, London. © Yayoi Kusama.

Four hours. Six hours. More than twelve hours.

This is how long many Art Gallery of Ontario members had to wait online yesterday to buy tickets for the Canadian premiere of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors,” which opens on March 3.

The member-only ticketing process had several steps, including numbers, passwords, and a “You are Now in Line” screen that tracked a small icon’s progress towards the ticketing website for hours at a stretch.

Many of those seeking tickets—even those members used to covering the arts professionally—were astounded at the effort and time consumed in the process.

“After waiting almost 12 hours, I got my member ticket to #InfiniteKusama,” Glenn Sumi, a longtime editor and writer at NOW Toronto covering theatre, movies and other arts events, posted to Twitter at around 12 midnight on Tuesday. “I won’t be going with my friends, because thanks to @agotoronto system we couldn’t buy together, even tho we shared our numbers and passwords. (They at least got same day; I’m nearly a week later.)”

Sumi had noted earlier in the day: “I could have FLOWN TO JAPAN in this time… Thanks, @agotoronto…”

“Sweet Lord on all of those accounts. #ugh???? Let’s just go to IKEA and buy a shit tonne of mirrors. I think I’d have better luck building my own than snagging a ticket,” wrote artist and photographer Tanja-Tiziana. She also tweeted that she had given up on the process.

“The words, “more than an hour” have lost all meaning, @agotoronto. It’s been almost 4.5 hours in this sodding queue,” said Bianca Spence.

The ticketing website also went down at at least one point, though queue positions were said to be saved when the site came back up.

“If the member sale was this bad for #InfiniteKusama, I can only imagine that the public sale will be a gong show,” tweeted editor and fashion writer Kimberly Lyn. (The first opportunity to purchase tickets for the general public will be on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, at noon.)

When asked by Canadian Art for comment, the Art Gallery of Ontario’s communications officer Carly Maga responded on Tuesday evening that “even though we did expect and prepare for unprecedented activity on our site…our ticket processing has been slower than we hoped. We apologize for how long it is taking people to buy [or, for members, reserve free] tickets and we thank them for their patience.”

Tickets for the show are only being sold online, not in person. Each is for a specific date and time window. Visitors will have a limit of just 20 to 30 seconds in each of the 6 rooms of the exhibition. Entry is not guaranteed for late arrivals and tickets are non-transferable, non-refundable and cannot be resold. There will be a very limited number of same-day timed tickets available onsite, but they are expected to sell quickly.

“Due to the experiential nature of the show, we have limited capacity,” the AGO’s Maga wrote via email. “With almost 100,000 Members we have never guaranteed that everyone would get tickets, as we need to ensure that the exhibition is available to the general public as well. We have been clear that becoming a Member offers the best chance in booking a ticket since we started communicating to our Members in the early fall, and that remains true as we will be offering another Members’ exclusive sale date on January 9. More details to come.”

Yet other museums showing Kusama’s work have not necessarily experienced the same tech problems.

“Seattle art museum had none of these issues…” tweeted Jane Hargraft, vice president of development at the Seattle Symphony, referring to this past summer’s run of “Infinity Mirrors” at the Seattle Art Museum.

On the somewhat brighter side, member Barbara Hicks posted to AGO’s Facebook page this morning that “I ended up sleeping through my spot in line, since it ended up being about 1:15am. But I woke up at 2:45am, tried getting back in line and there was less than a minute wait. So there’s that.”

Below, a roundup of some of the social media reactions:

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is news and special sections editor at Canadian Art. A graduate of NSCAD University and McGill University, she has also written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail. She welcomes tips, corrections and comments anytime at leah@canadianart.ca.