The annual Art Newspaper report on attendance figures always makes for interesting reading. There are the unsurprising results (the Louvre remains the most visited museum in the world with 8.6 million over the year), alongside the news that the NGV nabbed three positions in the list of the most popular Contemporary Art Exhibitions of 2015, with the David Shrigley exhibition in top place, followed by Carlo Amorales and Ryan Trecartin, and its Medieval Moderns (based on the NGV’s permanent collection) garnering over 350k visitors. All three were free exhibitions. As Michaela Boland in The Australian has already pointed out these figures are based on the numbers of visitors to the gallery while the exhibition was on, not on actual visitors to each exhibition. Since the NGV has just announced that the very popular Warhol/Weiwei exhibition has hit 300 000 visitors after being on for nearly 4 months, it seems unlikely that the Ryan Trecartin exhibition, tucked away on the top floor at NGV International, really had 493 824 individual visitors. Nonetheless the NGV does stand out as a very well-attended museum, according to the 2014-2015 annual report it received over 2.2 million visitors last financial year, and it sits in 21st place in the world in terms of overall attendance in the Art Newspaper report. Though of course, attendance figures are not (or shouldn’t be) the only measure of a museum’s success, we should still ask whether the programming is interesting, varied and challenging. Alongside the visitors stats the Art Newspaper also has an article where five directors share their thoughts on the question of taking risks and chasing numbers.
Another exhibition that made it into the top lists is the V&A’s David Bowie exhibition, which was on at ACMI last year from July to November. The Melbourne leg has been one of the most well-attended of the many stops this exhibition. It had 200 000 visitors altogether, putting it only behind London in terms of attendance (312 000).