I am an extremely keen reader of the annual survey which collects the the (unaudited) visitor numbers reported by the museums to the paper. I focus on working out what has not been included in the associated survey report.
The numbers are only a guide to which are the top museums. There are all sorts of problems (of the "apples and pears" variety) in terms of
- how the numbers are collected and which are estimated and which are accurate (For example - this year the Louvre has managed to produce a return which isn't same rounded figure that it has had had for the last three years!)
- which are for museums which charge and which are for museums which are free to enter.
The survey focuses in the main on attendances at the art exhibitions and there's pages of analysis of those for people who like that sort of thing. I'll be commenting later on what it says about exhibitions in the UK.
The Top 30 Art Galleries and Museums in the World in 2012
I've enhanced this year's listing to reflect the broad geographical area and whether performance is better or worse than last year. Following the top 30 list I have a commentary on what the list tells us this year. The listing includes
- the number of visitors, the name of the museum, and the city that the museum is located in - as per the Art Newspaper survey
- the ranked position number and a colour code to indicate the location of the gallery or museum. This colour coding enables you to see more easily where the the great museums are located.
- An up or down arrow to the left of the visitor numbers which enables a quick check on whether a museum is doing better or worse than last year
- I've also indicated the new entries in the top 30 in 2012.
red = Europe
|The difference one painting can make - crowds viewing the Mona Lisa in The Louvre|
|Musée d'Orsay in Paris|
- ▲ 9,720,260 Louvre, Paris
- ▲ 6,115,881 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
- ▼ 5,575,946 British Museum, London
- ▲ 5,304,710 Tate Modern, London
- ▼ 5,163,902 National Gallery, London
- ▲ 5,064,546 Vatican Museums, Vatican City NEW ENTRY
- ▲ 4,360,815 National Palace Museum, Taipei
- ▼ 4,200,000 National Gallery of Art, Washington
- ▲ 3,800,000 Centre Pompidou, Paris
- ▲ 3,613,076 Musee d’Orsay, Paris
- ▲ 3,231,700 Victoria & Albert Museum London
- ▼ 3,128,550 National Museum of Korea, Seoul
- ▼ 2,882,385 State Hermitage Museum St Petersburg
- ▼ 2,805,659 Museum of Modern Art New York
- ▲ 2,640,264 National Folk Museum of Korea Seoul
- ▼ 2,565,000 Reina Sofía Madrid
- ▼ 2,235,354 Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil Rio de Janeiro
- ▲ 2,096,858 National Portrait Gallery London
- ▲ 1,944,820 Shanghai Museum Shanghai
- ▲ 1,893,521 National Museum of Scotland Edinburgh
- ▲ 1,769,217 Galleria degli Uffizi Florence
- ▲ 1,735,600 Moscow Kremlin Museums Moscow
- ▲ 1,604,105 National Galleries of Scotland Edinburgh NEW ENTRY in top 30
- ▲ 1,590,608 Getty Los Angeles NEW ENTRY in top 30
- ▲ 1,571,333 National Gallery of Victoria Melbourne NEW ENTRY in top 30
- ▲ 1,536,833 Tate Britain London
- ▲ 1,518,927 Grand Palais Paris
- ▲ 1,504,286 Tokyo National Museum Tokyo
- ▲ 1,491,575 State Tretyakov Gallery Moscow NEW ENTRY in top 30
- ▼ 1,486,281 Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam
|Side Entrance to Tate Britain|
- Museums dropping out of the Top 30 in 2012 include the Museo Nacional del Prado (Madrid) and the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago). However this is because the Prado doesn't seem to have returned any figures as it's completely missing from the survey - which is very odd.
- There is no question that attendance at the art galleries and museums in London definitely suffered from the Olympic effect - when everybody avoided going into the centre of London for about six weeks. It therefore makes the phenomenal increase in visitors at Tate Modern that much more impressive. Well done also to the National Portrait Gallery in London for bucking the trend of falling visitor numbers. They topped 2 million visitors for the first time - helped no doubt by the extremely popular exhibition of Lucian Freud Portraits.
- In general, visitors appear to have declined at a number of the top museums and art galleries in the top 20. Some museums are actually getting fewer visitors and yet rising in ranked position!
- Numbers at individual museums vary from year to year depending on the extent of works relating to refurbishment and/or new galleries. The Louvre has seen a massive jump in visitors this year and the new wing for Islamic art must have played a part in this.
- The major apples and pears issue for me concerns those places which are actually general arts centres rather than specific art galleries and museums (eg Centre Pompidou and the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil). I do hope that the survey addresses this at some point in the future. It's my belief they do rather better in this survey than they do in reality.
- The bottom quartile of the top 30 tends to be where the new entries arrive.
- However the Vatican Museums have jumped straight in at #6 in 2012! I can't find them in previous surveys so assume they haven't been approached previously and/or decided not to participate
- Well done to Edinburgh for achieving two museums in the top 30 in 2012! I'm guessing that aggregating the museums on different sites which are collectively known as the National Galleries of Scotland made a big difference to the count.
- Well done also to Australia for getting its first museum in the top 30 - although National Gallery of Victoria is not the one which would have sprung to mind as being the first to achieve that accolade.
Later I'll be commenting on the top art exhibitions in the UK and the result of the three way 'fight' for visitors in 2012 between David Hockney, Damien Hirst and Lucian Freud.