Museum Attendance Plummets During The Olympic Period

It’s a cliche to conclude that people who are passionate about sport are just not interested in Art, but this line of thought seems to tally when looking at the stats for museums in London, during the Olympic period.

The latest attendance figures released covering the Summer period have revealed a large drop in visitor numbers during the Olympic period. In some cases the figures were down 40% on last year. Central London was worst hit with the British Museum losing 169,970 visitors in July. The number of visitors paying to attend exhibitions like ‘Damien Hirst’, at Tate Modern and ‘Migrations’ at Tate Britain fell, in the first week of August. Visitor numbers to the National Portrait Gallery were down by 58,461 in July compared with 2011, while the National Gallery had 40% fewer visitors in the first week of August. The same rule followed in south-east London, the National Maritime Museum, which makes up part of the Olympic equestrian arena, compensated by changing its opening hours to entice spectators to visit the museum when not attending the events. It was still down by 11,167 visitors in July. The museum welcomed an extra 63,356 visitors in June, compensating somewhat.

Maybe it was the words of Mayor Boris Johnson warning visitors to stay out of central London unless they had essential business in the capital. Or maybe it was the calibre of show on offer, We would hardly call Damien Hirst a blockbuster and after all the main show at the National Gallery concentrated on just three paintings! The National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition was Olympic related and still failed to capture the public’s imagination. The ICA which was in the middle of a major exhibition of the work of the American Artist Bruce Nauman was forced to close their doors in the middle of the show’s run, to allow Beach Volleyball to take place in the Mall, without the security risk of pesky art lovers.
On the other hand, this Summer was a great time for core art enthusiasts to go out and see all of what London has to offer, without long queues or swarms of tourists in baseball caps and bumbags getting in the way.

Visitor numbers by venue – Comparison with July 2011

British Museum

Venue National Portrait Gallery

Venue Museum of London (excluding MoL Docklands)

Venue National Maritime Museum

Venue Museum of Childhood

Venue Hampton Court Palace

Venue Tower of London

Venue Hackney Museum

Venue Much Wenlock Museum

This content was originally published in the Museums Journal by the Museums Association

Photo: © ArtLyst 2012

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