The deal of the art: Why diversity beats the old faves
Fewer visitors are worth it if we exhibit more diverse contemporary artists, says National Portrait Gallery
The success of a gallery should not be measured by its number of visitors, says the director of the National Portrait Gallery in London suggesting a significant drop is a price he is willing to pay for greater diversity.
Nicholas Cullinan, whose gallery has seen about 100,000 fewer visitors in 2018 than it did in 2017 according to a survey by The Art Newspaper, said it would be “easy” to hold blockbuster exhibitions to suit the masses.
But, he said, it was more important to fulfill its mission to “speak to different audiences” and “reach out” to new visitors by exhibiting diverse contemporary artists.
The Art Newspaper found the gallery had 1,586,451 visitors in 2018, compared with 1,703,411 in 2017.
Its statistics also showed that, for the first time in nine years, Tate Modern overtook the British Museum as the most popular UK arts institution, with 5.9 million guests making it the fifth most-visited gallery in the world thanks to major exhibitions including Picasso.
The British Museum has fallen to sixth place with 5.82 million visitors, with a spokesperson magnanimously saying: “We congratulate Tate Modern on being the UK’s leading visitor attraction.”
The Royal Academy enjoyed record numbers in its 250th anniversary year. The Summer Exhibition, guest-curated by Grayson Perry, was the most popular ticketed event in London with 300,000 people.The Victoria & Albert Museum, which held exhibitions on Frida Kahlo, Winnie-the-Pooh and fashion house Balenciaga, also reported a record year, with four million visitors, while the National Gallery is also in the international top 10.
The Louvre remains the most visited museum and gallery. The Paris institution credited its boost of popularity in 2018, which saw a 26% rise in visitors to a record 10.2 million, in part to a music video by Beyonce and Jay-Z, filmed in front of star paintings including the Mona Lisa.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)