Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Disneyfication of NG London – response

Leonardo: Experience a Masterpiece, commissioned and produced by the National Gallery and created by 59 Productions Photo: Justin Sutcliffe.

Bendor Grosvenor, Disneyfication at the National Gallery? Plus, the problem with deaccessioning in the UK, 13 January 2020

The stigma around state museums selling works means that other institutions dare not buy them; and a frank review of the National Gallery’s Leonardo exhibition

Disneyland at the National Gallery

I visited the National Gallery’s Leonardo: Experience a Masterpiece show (until 26 January). What a strange, ill-thought-out, overpriced embarrassment of an exhibition. You pay £18 to not experience a painting (because it’s hung behind a pretend altar, surrounded by a projected animation) that you can normally see in relative peace for free. To learn anything meaningful you need to spend another £10 on the catalogue. Truly, it is the Disneyfication of the National Gallery, a show aimed squarely at tourists.

Might it be a sign of things to come? The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) attendance figures reveal that more than 65% of National Gallery visitors are now classed as “overseas visitors”. DCMS doesn’t explicitly report domestic visitor numbers, but the figure is easily worked out. For the National Gallery, it’s a steady downward trend, falling by 35% over the past ten years. Over the same period, overseas visitors have risen by almost 150%. I’m glad so many tourists enjoy visiting the National Gallery. But does there come a point where we wonder which audience the gallery is aiming to please?

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2020
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