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ICA contends with museum world rarity: Scalped tickets for hit Yayoi Kusama show

Yayoi Kusama’s "Love Is Calling” is on exhibit at the ICA. Lane Turner/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Kusama-mania descended on the Institute of Contemporary Art this fall, complete with something only a Yayoi Kusama show could generate: a rash of ticket scalping. Early in its run, the museum was alerted to significant blocks of its limited run of tickets for “Yayoi Kusama: Love Is Calling” being bought by resellers. They soon appeared on sites including StubHub, where they’re selling for a starting price of $19. A timed ticket purchased directly from the ICA costs $15.

Margaux Leonard, the museum’s communications director, said the ICA was caught unaware by the situation and was taking steps to ensure it wouldn’t happen with the next release of Kusama tickets, which will take place on Oct. 8 for ICA members and Oct. 15 for the general public. In the meantime, though the Kusama exhibition is technically sold out through Oct. 31 — thanks in part to the resellers — the ICA is addressing the situation by releasing a limited number of tickets every day on a first-come, first-serve basis.


Ticket scalping might be epidemic with big-name rock stars, but it’s almost unheard of in the art world, with Kusama as perhaps the lone outlier. In 2017 and 2018, Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors” exhibition caused ticket headaches nearly everywhere it stopped, producing online queues of 12 hours or longer. Museums like the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto strictly controlled ticket sales in-house, though some still slipped through to resellers. It prompted the museum to deny access to all ticketholders who hadn’t acquired the tickets directly from the museum itself.

Murray Whyte can be reached at murray.whyte@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheMurrayWhyte.