The ‘Sip my Ocean’ show by the Zurich-based artist who specialises in experimental video art and multimedia installations was so successful that opening hours for the exhibition were extended and late-night sessions were put on to cope with demand.
The Sydney museum was also forced for the first time ever to limit visitor numbers during peak times while the use of smartphones was even banned during certain times to ensure people moved through the exhibition spaces more quickly.
A glance at Instagram reveals the popularity of the Swiss women's retrospective on social media. Under the hashtag #pipilottirist there are more than 30,000 images taken by people at the exhibition.
And while final figures are not yet available, the museum estimates visitors numbers were 20 to 30 percent above usual levels at the museum durng the Rist show.
The runaway success of the exhibition by the Swiss artist has taken the Sydney museum by surprise.
In an interview with Swiss news agency SDA/ATS, Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor acknowledged that selecting Pipilotti Rist for the MCA’s special summer exhibition had been a risk, given that she was all but unknown in Australia outside of the art community.
But it was clear from early on that the show was going to be a success.
Macgregor, who turned down the chance to head up the UK’s Tate museums in 2016 put the success of the Rist exhibition down to the role of social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
The museum director also noted that Rist, originally from Switzerland’s Rheintal, was able to express complex ideas in a fun and colourful way. The fact that visitors were part of the interactive show was also important, she said.
Lastly, Macgregor said the exhibition had attracted a lot of Asian visitors who were drawn by the chance to explore themes related to women and body image in a way they were not able to do in their home countries.