Paris, 3 January 2012, Art Media Agency (AMA).
Like every year, the beginning of January marks the time of museum reports and those of institutions all across the globe who anticipate on one result: the number of visitor attendance. The economic crisis doesn’t seem to be affecting the increasing number of visitors and some museum have already announced broken records for visitor attendance in 2011.
France continues to be a top destination for French and foreign tourists as they ensure to stop at certain museums and national monuments during their stay. Almost 27 million people have visited French museums in 2011, an increase of 5% from the previous year. The hundreds of national monuments (Notre-Dame in Paris, Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, Arc de Triomphe, etc.) are doing better each year with 9 million visitors, an increase of 5.5%. The Parisian aura continues to shine internationally and the museums in the capital evidently obtain the highest rate of attendance, with the Louvre taking the lead by far on the French and global podium. In fact, it had announced the record-breaking figure of 8.8 million visitors, making it 300,000 more than the previous year. It holds a place over other internationally famous institutions including the British Museum and the Metropolitan in New York, these two main competitors. In 2010, both museums attracted 5.8 million and 5.2 million people, according to British newspaper, The Art Newspaper.
Although the Parisians have found a renewed interest in their iconic Louvre museum and its famous pyramid (+ 17% in 2011), the visitors in the galleries are mostly foreign (66 %). Most of the foreign visitors are from the United States, but also from emerging countries like Brazil, and of course China and Japan. Contemporary art is not to be outdone in Paris as the Centre Pompidou also welcomes the increasing number of visitors it hosted in 2011. At the end of December, the museum announced it had surpassed the results of the previous year (3.1 million visitors in 2010) and hoped to have reached a record-breaking 3.6 million visitors in 2011. Also, still in Paris, the Quai Branly museum received a 9% increase in attendance. The exhibitions “Dogons” and “Mayas” helped attract almost 1.5 million people during the last twelve months. Not far from Paris, the Château de Versailles is still a highly popular and attractive tourist destination, accounting for nearly 6 million visitors in 2011. The province is also affected by this positive report, as the young Centre Pompidou-Metz is in the lead with 500,000 visitors in 2011 after being open for one year and a half.
Other museums and inquisitions across Europe and the world have not yet revealed their visitor reports for 2011. In the UK, the National Gallery and its major exhibitions still attract crowds of visitors, for instance the most recent exhibition dedicated to the iconic Leonardo da Vinci did not disappoint and results should soon be revealed. This formula of “blockbuster” exhibitions seems to be favoured by the current policies of museums to attract more visitors and to prevent undesirable effects of the “crisis”. Temporary exhibitions also allowed a private museum like the Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid a record attendance of 1.07 million visitors, representing a dramatic increase of 30.4% from the previous year. After being affected by the current financial instability, Spain has attracted tourists, primarily the “Golden Triangle of Art” in Madrid – the museums Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza. The Reina Sofia museum saw its attendance increase by 17% in 2011 with nearly 2.7 million visitors, and the Prado museum increased by 6.6%, with 2.91 million visitors which is still very satisfactory.
Given this report, we note that the policy pursued by the museums around the world since the end of the 20th century continues to apply: culture and tourism are now inseparable. Major museums want to find ways to attract more visitors by focusing on programmes for the “general public” and seeking to attract a younger audience. This formula seems to work, like the Louvre, which proudly announced that half of its visitors are under 30. However, it is evident that it is still the middle and upper classes who benefit substantially from this cultural way of life.