A recent article by Mark Hudson recaps the current art climate in the UK; he examines trends behind attendance figures, which overall have been on the upswing. Hudson reveals institutional successes and challenges, and also reflects on some reasons why, though the numbers are up, more interest has been generated by international visitors than national ones. Excerpts below:
The expansion in attendance is being driven by foreign visitors, and while attendance for major museums – including the British Museum, Science Museum, Natural History Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum – is on the up, our two greatest art galleries, the National and Tate, are shedding domestic visitors at an alarming rate. Visits to these galleries have dropped by an astonishing 20 per cent.
Interpretations of the current figures make a clear distinction between museums and art galleries. Museums, long considered great cathedrals of dullness, have done a fantastic job at rebranding themselves as family-friendly, digital button-pushing fun palaces. London’s museums offer exhibits with cross-generational wow factor: mummies at the British Museum, rockets at the Science Museum, dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. In contrast, galleries devoted solely to art may appear a bit serious and a bit specialist, certainly to families who haven’t yet bought the line that art is both the new religion and the new rock’n’roll.
If for all our supposed new love of art there is still something fundamentally philistine at the heart of the British character, it isn’t the gallery’s responsibility to change that. If after 191 years of its existence there are still factors of class, culture and education that mean that large sections of the British population will never visit the National Gallery, or any of our other major galleries, it’s up to the Government, the education system and society at large to address that situation, not the galleries themselves. - Segments of an article by Mark Hudson of the Telegraph
Read the full article by Hudson in the Telegraph.