I have blogged before about the lipstick phenomena and its impact on museums, and also the effect that the GFC and the resulting increase in domestic holidays have had on visitors. Now comes conflicting information from a number of sources on the issue.
AFP reports on 15th December 09 that Madrid’s Prado Museum reported near record numbers for 2009, and the Art Newspaper on 9th December 2009 also reports in its annual survey of major collecting institutions from around the world that two thirds saw an increase in visitors.
However The US Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a downturn in visitor numbers (11th December 09) based on a recent National Endowment for the Arts survey on American art habits. The survey reveals that more and more Americans have stopped going to museums, though before we slit our wrists, let it be clear that we are in the same company as music concerts, opera, ballet and even movies.
To be fair the information is not in conflict. We know there is a short term rise in museum going, but the overall trend is unfortunately negative. And why? The article is well worth reading not just for itself, but also for the ensuing blog commentary. In summary the reasons given are:
· The economy
· Lack of relevant teaching and arts education at primary and secondary level
· Losing our sense of the public sphere – we would rather look at things in the privacy of our own home
· ‘Disneyfication’ of museums (this was in a blog comment) , i.e. too many bells and whistles and not enough real things
· Disallowance of photography in museums (also in a blog comment) thus stopping any ‘fun’. Interestingly the blogger gets the need to limit photography for conservation reasons, but believes ( probably with some justification) that the ban is more about a matter of control over images for reproduction purposes
· And finally Adoration of the internet , i.e. we can get it all on-line, including close ups of all those great paintings – “Who needs to go to the Frick to see Rembrandt’s self portrait when the picture can be had for two easy clicks on the keyboard?”
The last point is interesting. We have consistently said , based on evidence out of French research (though I could not put my hands on it) that the more people look at art museum images on the net the more they want to see the real, but this is now suggesting that is not the case.
Sobering stuff, but at least we now have the ‘metrics’ identifying the problem, so we can plan what to do about it.
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