Last week the Department of Culture Media and Sport announced that visitor numbers to the UK’s galleries and museums had enjoyed a rise – up 2 million since last year. A more in-depth look, however, reveals that in fact these figures show that the major art galleries – the Tate Galleries and the National Gallery – have seen a significant decline in their UK visitor numbers, according to the BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz, speaking this morning on the Today program.
The DCMS statistics show that 49 million visits were made to the 16 museums and galleries directly funded by the government last year, which is a 4% increase on 2012/13 and a record since the first data was published in 2002/03.
The most visited of the 16 galleries was the Tate, with 7 million visits in 2013/14, followed by the the British Museum and the National Gallery. However, the number of visitors overall to the Tate and the National Gallery has dropped by almost 20% since 2008/09, while the other museums are enjoying a steady rise. Gompertz suggests that it is due to our ‘event culture’ that favours blockbuster exhibitions, rather than the permanent art collections.