Damien Hirst helps Tate break visitor record

Artist Damien Hirst with his work "I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds 2006", on display at Tate Modern art gallery in 2012 The Damien Hirst retrospective at Tate Modern was the most popular solo exhibition in Tate history

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Record numbers of visitors flocked to the Tate last year, driven in part by the popularity of artist Damien Hirst.

The Tate's annual report reveals that almost eight million people visited the art museum's four galleries in 2012-13.

Tate chairman Lord Browne said that figure was "more than any other art museum in the world, except for The Louvre".

The Hirst retrospective at Tate Modern in 2012 was the most popular solo exhibition in Tate history.

Tate Modern has also unveiled a new digital project - entitled Bloomberg Connects - with 75 screens mounted on walls throughout the former power station which display visitors' ideas and comments.

In addition, a "digital drawing bar" allows people to draw on touch screens and see their creations projected instantly for other visitors to see.

Tate Modern's creative director Jane Burton admitted that the public's drawings would not be pre-vetted but "there will be a system to take down inappropriate things should they emerge, and no doubt that will occasionally happen".

Bloomberg Connects The Bloomberg Connects project allows visitors to see their own art on the walls of Tate Modern

Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota said: "In the coming years we need to devote as much attention to the digital as we have given recently to the physical expansion and improvement of our buildings."

The annual report, published on Thursday, showed that 7.74 million people visited the four galleries - Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives - in 2012-13 making it Tate's most successful year to date. Last year's figure was 7.06m.

More people visited Tate Modern than ever before - 5.5 million. It retained its position as the most visited gallery of modern and contemporary art in the world and was the second most popular tourist attraction in the UK, after the British Museum.

The Damien Hirst exhibition attracted more than 463,000 visitors. Tate Britain's Pre-Raphaelites show brought in 240,000 visitors.

Tate lent record numbers of works to venues in the UK as well as abroad. Some 1,762 works were lent to 1,181 venues in the UK and 581 internationally.

A total of 502 works were acquired solely by Tate with a total value of over £23m.

Long-term funding

Unveiling the annual report on Thursday, Tate bosses also called for a "clear contractual arrangement" with government to help unlock sources of long-term funding, such as philanthropic giving.

Start Quote

We need to think about where museums want to be in 2020-2025.”

End Quote Sir Nicholas Serota

A significant proportion of Tate's funding is made up of grant-in-aid from the government. In 2012-13 this was £34.9m of the Tate's £157.8m income.

Tate chair Lord Browne said government funding for the arts had "failed to keep pace with inflation".

He said: "Our ability to rely on public funds is only going to decrease which means that the link between our grant and the public services we provide will need to be redefined."

Sir Nicholas told the BBC: "Museums work in the long term rather than over a two or three year cycle - so we have to plan. We're looking to government to think in the longer term, we need to think about where museums want to be in 2020-2025."

He added that he was "reasonably optimistic that some of the corporate money that has disappeared in recent years will gradually come back to us".

The Tate's 2014 programme includes major exhibitions from: Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, JMW Turner, and 100 Years Later: Conflict, Time, Photography - a photographic exhibition timed to coincide with the centenary of the First World War.

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