Friday, September 04, 2015

Counter attack

You do have to wonder why public art museums keep using numbers to justify their existence and their funding. As Richard Pierce, a spokesman for the Brooklyn Museum, once famously said, 'The whole attendance figure game is just that - a game.’ For all the electronic devices, hand-held counters and surveys, audience counting is an art not a science. As anyone working in a busy institution knows the only real count is a paid-for ticket but you do to have to feel a twinge of sympathy for Simon Rees, the director of the Govett-Brewster. He invested in the usual electronic people counters used by museums internationally beefed up with some staff using manual clickers and the figures have been suitably impressive: 30,000 through the new complex already. But wouldn’t you know it. One of the G-B's chief detractors has an office overlooking the building and by looking out his window he's making his own assessment. Rather predictably it is somewhat lower. Of course the opening months of any new building can be expected to pull the crowds but even if, allowing for initial attendances settling down, you halve that first month's 30,000 as your base the G-B would be indicating an annual attendance of around 180,000. Now that's a stretch as we've discussed before. And that's the problem with figures; today’s success is the rope they hang you with tomorrow.