Entertainment & Arts

Why are fewer people visiting UK museums and galleries?

Anthea Hamilton Image copyright Joe Humphrys
Image caption Anthea Hamilton's work was up for last year's Turner Prize for art

Did you go to a museum or gallery last year?

Figures show the number of visitors to the UK's major museums and galleries fell last year for the first time in almost a decade.

The biggest drop in 2015/2016 was seen in educational visits and school groups, which saw a 6.9% decline on 2014/15.

So why are figures dropping? It has been speculated that security fears over terrorism may be a factor.

Image copyright The Sun
Image caption David Hockney has redesigned The Sun's masthead to promote his Tate Britain exhibition

According to The Guardian, it may also be because there being fewer so-called "blockbuster" exhibitions like the V&A's David Bowie show in 2013 - the most visited show in the London museum's history.

"There has been much speculation about the cause of the small decline in overall visitor numbers to national museums in England," said a spokesman for the Museums Association.

"But it is too early to say for certain what the reasons are for the drop in numbers."

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport's figures are based on attendance at the 15 museums it sponsors that provide free entry to their permanent collections.

They include the British Museum, the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery Group, which includes Tate Britain and Tate Modern.

According to the Museums Association, though, the figures "only cover England's national museums and therefore provide a partial view of the health of the UK's museums".

"In fact, the government's own Taking Part Survey shows that museum visits are at an all-time high in England, with 52.5% of all adults visiting a museum last year."

Tate Britain is expected to see a boost in visitor figures this year thanks to its eagerly anticipated David Hockney retrospective.

The 79-year-old artist marked the exhibition's opening by redesigning the Sun newspaper's logo for Friday's "souvenir" edition.

What else could be the hot tickets for this year?

Here are some suggestions from BBC Arts editor Will Gompertz:

1) Tony Cragg: A Rare Category of Objects

The biggest UK exhibition to date by leading sculptor Tony Cragg opens next month at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield.

2) Jasper Johns

Opening in September, the Royal Academy's major retrospective of the American artist's work is tipped by Will to be "a sure-fire hit".

3) Cezanne Portraits

The National Portrait Gallery brings together more than 50 of the French artist's portraits, including works that have never been on public display in the UK.

4) Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932

Featuring works by the likes of Wassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Malevich, the Royal Academy's spring exhibition marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution.

5) Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017

The German artist's first exhibition at Tate Modern includes an "immersive" new installation in the gallery's cavernous South Tank.

And Hull is also 2017's UK's City of Culture, and its offerings include hosting this year's Turner Prize later this year.


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