Louvre in Paris tops most visited art venue poll

The Louvre in Paris For five years running, the Louvre has been the most visited art museum

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The Louvre in Paris was the most visited art museum last year, according to the Art Newspaper.

The publication's annual poll stated that nearly 8.9 million people visited the French institute, which was almost a 5% increase on last year.

New York's Metropolitan Museum Of Art was the second most visited venue, with the British Museum in third place.

Two more London museums - the National Gallery and the Tate Modern - were in fourth and fifth place respectively.

'Good value'

The Louvre has topped the annual list since it began in 2007.

The Art Newspaper's deputy editor Javier Pes said the institute remained popular because it is home to Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa "among other treasures".

Graphic of most visited museums

Art gallery attendance has continued to climb, despite the global recession but Mr Pes was not surprised by the findings.

"Last year, American museums particularly took a big hit with the financial crisis, so they had to look for cuts and they found some of them in exhibition budgets."

'Big effect'

"Now the big museums fall back on the great collections. The Met did really well from showing their Picassos. So museums have had to be creative with their collections.

"But there is obviously still an appetite out there and the museums are offering good value for money."

Theories abound as to why art venues across the world have become increasingly popular. They range from art being the new religion in a secular age, to the rise of mass-participation event culture in response to the fracturing of communities in our digital world.

They're reasonable points, which probably have had some positive affect on attendances. But not to the extent we have witnessed over the past decade. After all, great art has always had pulling power - there's nothing new in that.

So what's changed, if it's not us? The answer is, museums have.

Until fairly recently a museum saw itself as an academic institution that begrudgingly opened to the public as part of its state funding deal. The art historians that worked in these fusty, dusty places, looking after the treasures within, called themselves "keepers" - a proprietorial, guard-like job title with an inherently anti-public access ethos.

But then, at some point in the 1980s, a new breed of impresario-cum-museum Director emerged and turned their institutions into visitor attractions. Marketing departments were created, public relations experts were hired, and once damp, dark and forbidding buildings were transformed into light, bright family-friendly venues.

Art had gone into the show business and has been presenting blockbusters ever since.

A British Museum spokeswoman said she was "delighted" to feature so high in the list.

"The museum is committed to ensuring we show the world to the world, with free access for all."

The National Gallery also welcomed its place in the top five.

"The rise to the fourth most popular museum and gallery in the world reflects the enduring appeal and relevance of Old Master paintings today, and the strength of engaging exhibitions with a wide appeal," a statement said.

And a Tate Modern spokeswoman added the visitor figures "reflect the increasing worldwide interest in culture and the arts".

At number six was Washington's National Gallery of Art, permanent home to the only Leonardo Da Vinci painting in whole of the Americas, followed by the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan.

The Centre Pompidou in Paris was in eighth position, with the National Museum of Korea at number nine and Paris' Musee D'Orsay rounded off the top 10.

Attendance figures from more than 400 art institutions from across the world were collected from January to December last year.

The top 20 most visited exhibitions during last year have also been released.

Top of the list was The Magical World of Escher at Rio's Centrol Cultural Banco do Brazil with 9,677 people on average visiting it per day, with the total number throughout the year totalling 573,691.

Unlike a lot of high profile exhibitions, the Escher show was free to members of the public, which Mr Pes said "undoubtedly has a big effect" on a show's popularity.

'Great strides'

Kukai's World: The Arts Of Esoteric Buddhism at the Tokyo National Museum was in second place, followed by Landscape Reunited at the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

Top 10 most visited exhibitions on a daily basis

1. The Magical World of Escher at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil - 9,677

2. Kukai's World: The Arts Of Esoteric Buddhism at the Tokyo National Museum - 9,108

3. Landscape Reunited - National Palace Museum - 8,828

4. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art - 8,025

5. Claude Monet (1840-1926) at the Grand Palais - 7,609

6. Photoquai at the Musee Quai Branly - 7,304

7. Mariko Mori: Oneness at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brazil - 6,991

8. Monuments: Anish Kapoor at the Grand Palais - 6,967

9. Laurie Anderson at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brazil - 6,934

10. The Prado Museum at the Hermitage at the State Hermitage Museum - 6,649

The Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition at the Metropolitan in New York attracted just over 8,000 people a day.

The venue showed a collection of dresses and costumes made by the late British fashion designer, who killed himself in 2010.

Rounding off the top five was the Claude Monet display at the Grand Palais.

Figures have continued to increase since 1996, when the publication first began recording visiting figures.

Initially a show needed around 3,000 people a day in order to make the top 10, now they need to have almost 7,000 visitors a day.

Mr Pes said museums have "made great strides" in recent years.

"Museums can pat themselves on the back," he added. "They have built up audiences so there is a bigger appetite to see art, especially contemporary art.

"Museums have got better at putting on exhibitions and marketing them and building up excitement."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Watch the Art Tourists run through the Louvre, past dozens of pictures, so that they can see the Mona Lisa. So funny. In a collection of thousands of items it seems only one is deemed worthy by some. When you visit, make TIME to really enjoy, it's worth it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    First went to the Louvre on a school trip. Too big to take in. The Musee d'Orsay, however, was life-changing. Suddenly understood the point of art galleries!

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I have been to the Louvre and its absolutely fantastic. Worth every penny. Can't wait to take my son there someday.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Sounds like a sensible reason to stay away from the Louvre ... ? These places are usually so busy there that you cannot simply spend time gazing at their treasures.
    I think there is a great deal of unmined beauty in the less central museums. The Lady Lever gallery near Liverpool is a case in point. Going there was a joy and wonder - I had TIME. Yet how how many of us even know of its existence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    It's wonderful that cultural pursuits are growing in popularity. The art galleries and museums have upped their game and the public have responded. Having visited the Louvre, I can thoroughly recommend its diverse and astounding range of exhibits. This news comes as no surprise. Long may this recognition continue!


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