A large crowd in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art shows how the museum has become one of the major art destinations in the world. Photo: Majonaise
In the last five years, there has been a general increase in the number of visitors to museums, galleries, and art fairs across the globe. A major percentage of these visitors are foreigners on vacation. In addition to helping these art institutions earn bragging rights, they have also engendered some financial benefits.
With the benefits accruing from foreign visitors, it is not surprising that galleries, museums, and art institutions are doing their best to become top art destinations for art lovers. From hosting major exhibitions about famous artists to other blockbuster shows, these art establishments are determined to turn their art institutions to key tourist destinations.
In 2017, The Metropolitan Museum of Art attracted more than 7 million visitors. A major part of the visitors were tourists visiting New York. The more than 7 million art lovers visited the museum because of the varied and plentiful exhibition programs presented by the Met museum. Some of the shows included Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven, Max Beckmann in New York, Age of Empires: Chinese Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 B.C.–A.D. 220), and Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between. Others were The Roof Garden Commission: Adrián Villar Rojas, The Theater of Disappearance, Irving Penn: Centennial, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, The Roof Garden Commission: Cornelia Parker, Transitional Object (Psycho Barn), diane arbus: in the beginning, Kerry James Marshall: Mastry and Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible.
Many museums are aware of the importance of attracting tourists and are, therefore, curating innovative exhibitions that will turn their venues to major art destinations. The Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of Art, Tate Modern, London, England, and Le Louvre, Paris, France, have become some of the top art destinations in the world because of the amazing shows and works they have on display including those from their collections. But the art institutions mentioned above are not the only ones creating exciting shows. Other art institutions are also immersed in their effort to captivate art lovers. The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, The Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece, State Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia, The British Museum, London, England, The Prado, Madrid, Spain, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York, The Vatican Museums, Vatican City, Italy are important examples. The Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, J. Paul Getty Center, Los Angeles, California, Musee d‘Orsay, Paris, France, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, London, England, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. have also stepped up their effort to attract large audience.
The increase in the number of art visitors to museums and other art institutions around the globe in the last five years indicates an upward swing and an attestation of how art institutions are using blockbuster exhibitions to attract tourists and art lovers. In 2016, approximately 7.4 million people visited the Musée du Louvre in 2016, with a total of almost 7.8 million including visitors to the Louvre Lens. Almost 70% of the museum’s visitors were foreign, which explains the impact of the international tourist flow on the museum’s visitor numbers. In addition to France, other countries best represented at the Louvre were the United States, China, Great Britain, Italy, and Germany. Twenty Seventeen brought even greater visitors.
The economic impact of art tourism on countries cannot be overstated. Art institutions are not only determined to become the top art destinations in the world, they are also boosting the economy of their cities and countries by using art and cultural events to attract tourists worldwide. Many countries are also taking advantage of the growth in art tourism to make their nations the focus of attention of tourists in search of art destinations. From Italy to the United Kingdom, there has been a surge in the effort to attract art tourists with new incentives and innovations. In addition to the effort of art institutions to get their exhibitions noticed internationally, individual countries are also promoting activities of their museums internationally. But the promotions are not limited to blockbuster exhibitions alone. There has also been an increase in the promotions of art fairs, biennales, and art festivals.
As 2018 begins, most museums have continued their effort to attract visitors through major shows. Tate has major blockbusters including The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy, Modigliani, and John Piper. Also at the MET is Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed, Rodin at the MET, and Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection. With these shows and many others across the world, there are clear indications that there will be an increase in the number of visitors to museums, galleries and art fairs this year.