When Te Papa casually announced it wasn’t going to go for a new National Art Gallery after all, they may have made a big strategic error. Te Papa has always used the door-count as a key measure of success and used patsy survey questions to get round quality. In fact this year Te Papa has gone so far as to lower its performance goal for ‘audience awareness and understanding’ from 95% to 75%. Now a quarter of the audience can just hunker down in the cafe and bribe the kids with fluffies.
The thing is, if you’re after a big volume audience (and one that has both awareness and understanding of what it is looking at) art rules. First check out The Art Newspaper’s recent lists of art museum attendances worldwide for 2010. Then consider that other specialist institutions in London like the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the National Maritime Museum attract 4,105,106 visitors, 2,793,930 visitors and 2,367,904 visitors respectively.
The smart money’s clearly on art, especially when you consider that six of the top ten (Tate, National Gallery, National Gallery of Art, MoMA, Pompidou and d’Orsay) are the institutions formally known as art galleries.
The Art Newspaper list:
Louvre, Paris 8,500,000
British Museum, London 5,842,138
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 5,216,988
Tate Modern, London 5,061,172
National Gallery, London 4,954,914
National Gallery of Art, Washington 4,775,114
Museum of Modern Art, New York 3,131,238
Centre Pompidou, Paris 3,130,000
National Museum of Korea, Seoul 3,067,909
Musee d'Orsay, Paris 2,985,510