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Measuring attendance

National Gallery of Victoria water wall. Source: Melbourne Staycation.

Michaela Boland, Door tally puts National Gallery of Victoria in unlikely company, The Australian, 5 April 2016

Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria has lodged a series of outlandish figures with the annual international attendance survey published by Britain’s The Art Newspaper which appear to make the twin site one of the most visited museums in the world.

Unaudited figures supplied by the NGV ranked it the planet’s 21st most visited art museum with 2.4 million visitors.

It also claims to have hosted six of the top 50 exhibitions worldwide in 2015 putting it in the same league as the Louvre, the British Museum and Taipei’s National Palace Museum.

The only problem is, a gallery spokeswoman admitted, the NGV doesn’t count visitors to its individual exhibitions, it merely attributes to them the number of people who walk through the front door while they are on — no matter if they come to the gallery for lunch, attend a book fair or an after-hours function. This anomaly has made a star of Glaswegian artist David Shrigley: an exhibition of his work featuring a urinating life model was reportedly seen by 600,000 visitors, or a whopping 5602 a day.

The Shrigley show is listed as the world’s 19th most-seen exhibition in 2015. It even trumped a late Rembrandt exhibition at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum seen by 5481 visitors a day.

Shrigley was just shy of a Matisse cut-outs show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Rembrandt and Matisse and nearly all other exhibitions in the international top 20 were ticketed. But the NGV figures are, according to a spokeswoman, “based on general gallery attendance numbers during the duration of the exhibition.”

Also at the NGV, The Horse, a display of horse images, was seen by 5237 people a day while a Carlos Amorles exhibition and a Ryan Trecartin show were listed as having been seen by half a million people each. Exquisite Threads, English Embroidery attracted a whopping 383,247 visitors and Medieval Moderns: the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was seen by 351,308.

“The NGV has experienced extraordinary growth in visitation over the past three years as a result of a very active program of exhibitions and public programs,” the gallery spokeswoman said. “The attendance figures from 2012 to 2015 show more than 50 per cent growth in this period. The NGV is confident in the figures it provided to The Art Newspaper.”

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