March 3, 2006:

[achtung! kunst] *exhibition attendance figs 2005* : Tokyo's Hokusai and Toshodaiji shows top

Hokusai show gets over 9,000 visitors a day Shows in Japan top our
survey again this year with the largest daily averages recorded in the
last 10 years
Kay Itoi and Jane Morris

TOKYO/LONDON. Exhibitions in Tokyo have topped our survey of annual
attendance figures for the second year running. In 2004, three shows in
the Japanese capital made it into the top 10 most visited shows.
In 2005, “Hokusai” at the Tokyo National Museum attracted a staggering
9,436 visitors a day making it not just the year’s highest attended show
but also the most visited since we started publishing annual attendance
figures in 1996.
“National treasures of the Toshodaiji Temple” at the same museum came
second with 8,678 visitors a day while “Van Gogh in context” at the
National Museum of Modern Art came 10th with 5,890 visitors a day. Shows
in Kyoto, Yokohama and Kobe also attracted huge numbers.
The Japanese phenomenon is the result of a number of factors. In 2001
all state-run museums were semi-privatised; national museums are now
responsible for generating profits from tickets and merchandising, so
institutions are spending considerable sums on marketing and the
curatorial emphasis has shifted to crowd-pleasing artists such as
Hokusai and Van Gogh.
The upshot appears to be a drive to accommodate as many visitors as
possible. But what sort of experience does the visitor have with so many
people admitted at any one time? The Tokyo National Museum’s most
popular exhibitions took place in the 2,900 squaremetre Heisei wing,
with a capacity of around 2,000 people at any one time—a figure Japanese
commentators say is only achieved by cramming the visitors in together.
This inevitably leads to “bottlenecks” at certain popular vantage points
in exhibitions.
Certainly, the vast capacity of Japanese venues enables them to achieve
much higher attendance than their counterparts in the West. Blockbusters
inevitably sell out in other museum spaces with reduced floor space and
smaller capacity figures, placing them lower down our survey.
However, although the Metropolitan Museum of Art declined to disclose a
capacity visitor figure for its Vincent Van Gogh show, the top US
exhibition in the list (and number four overall), the institution still
managed to accommodate 6,571 daily visitors in a space a third of the
size (929 square metres) of the Tokyo National Museum.
MoMA also made the top 30 in our survey by pushing through 3,449 daily
visitors for its show of new acquisitions into an small exhibition area
of 409 square metres. A spokesperson for the New York museum said that a
  “capacity visitor figure did not apply” to the museum.
This MoMA exhibition is only four places lower than Tate Britain’s show
on Turner Whistler and Monet (no.19), the highest ranked UK show. Tate
only allowed 500 visitors at any one time into an area more than twice
the size of MoMA’s (934 square metres). The same show at the Grand
Palais attracted 119,332 more people, but it was open for a slightly
longer period of time The Paris museum declined to reveal its maximum
capacity and floor space size.
So is today’s international exhibition-goer put off by these
bone-crushing experiences? Our survey reveals that 234 shows attracted
more than 1,000 visitors a day, a 3% drop on 2004, but the causes of
this are impossible to determine.
Over 600 international institutions were contacted for this survey. A
number of institutions have been excluded because tickets to their shows
also included entrance to another attraction. This includes the Mori Art
Museum, which issues combined tickets for exhibitions and the
observation platform at the top of the skyscraper. The Colosseum also
issues combined tickets for shows and entrance to the site (see p.18).
Only shows that ended in 2005 are included. Exhibitions which closed in
January will be ranked in next year’s list.

[image] Record attendance: Hokusai Daily Total Exhibition Venue City
Dates at the Tokyo National Museum tops our survey this year. Above, The
Great Wave off Kanagawa from “Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji”, 1823-29

All figures were calculated automatically by our database which computes
the number of days an exhibition was open using the following formula:
total number of days between start date and end date, divided by seven,
multiplied by the number of days per week the institution is open, minus
exceptional closures. As this formula always produces an imperfect
number (a division of seven) all figures are out by a potential margin
of 2%. However, as the same margin applies uniformly to all averages
given, the list represents a fair comparison. All data used was supplied
by the institutions concerned. Many institutions have one ticket for the
entire museum and cannot provide individual attendance for temporary
exhibitions. Some institutions offer a number of exhibitions for a
single ticket: these are shown as one entry. A number of institutions
did not provide us with data.

Daily Total Exhibition Venue City Dates
9,436 332,939 Hokusai Tokyo National Museum Tokyo 25/10/05-4/12/05
8,678 402,921 National Treasures of the Toshodaiji Temple Tokyo National
Museum Tokyo 12/1/05-6/3/05
7,066 621,814 19th-century Masterpieces from the Louvre Yokohama Museum
of Art Yokohama 9/4/05-18/7/05
6,571 459,972 Vincent van Gogh: the drawings Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York 18/10/05-31/12/05
6,387 433,397 Cézanne and Pissarro 1865-85 Museum of Modern Art New York
6,043 501,601 Turner Whistler Monet Grand Palais Paris 13/10/04-17/1/05
5,992 425,404 19th-century Masterpieces from the Louvre Kyoto City
Museum Kyoto 30/7/05-16/10/05
5,991 293,551 Thomas Demand Museum of Modern Art New York 4/4/05-30/5/05
5,934 937,613 Tutankhamun and the pharaohs LACMA Los Angeles
5,890 518,307 Van Gogh in context National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo
5,692 337,475 Masterpieces from Museum Island, Berlin Tokyo National
Museum Tokyo 5/4/05-12/6/05
5,644 866,812 Tutankhamun, the golden beyond Kunst der Bundesrepublik
Bonn 4/11/04-1/5/05
5,519 463,603 Chanel Metropolitan Museum of Art New York 5/5/05-7/8/05
5,238 386,841 Friedlander Museum of Modern Art New York 5/6/05-29/8/05
4,985 346,847 Works from the UBS Art Collection Museum of Modern Art New
York 4/2/05-25/4/05
4,386 305,131 Groundswell: contemporary landscape Museum of Modern Art
New York 25/2/05-16/5/05
4,311 362,152 Matisse: his art and his textiles Metropolitan Museum of
Art New York 23/6/05-25/9/05
4,144 370,011 Salvador Dalí Philadelphia Museum of Art Philadelphia
4,024 382,269 Turner Whistler Monet Tate Britain London 10/2/05-15/5/05
3,969 286,330 Dresden: mirror of the world National Museum of Western
Art Tokyo 28/6/05-19/9/05
3,722 73,914 The dancing satyr Tokyo National Museum Tokyo 19/2/05-13/3/05
3,575 607,699 The Aztec empire Guggenheim Museum Bilbao 19/3/05-19/8/05
3,449 266,526 New work and new acquisitions Museum of Modern Art New
York 29/6/05-26/9/05
3,396 699,483 Pharaoh Institut du Monde Arabe Paris 15/10/04-12/6/05
3,358 272,000 Turks, 600-1600 AD Royal Academy of Arts London
3,278 721,074 Art Informel and Abstract Expressionism Guggenheim Museum
Bilbao 8/3/05-6/11/05
3,201 214,500 Dresden: mirror of the world Hyogo Prefectural Museum Kobe
3,165 231,040 Baseball as America Museum of Fine Arts Houston
3,150 440,564 Monet, the Seine and water lilies Museo di Santa Giulia
Brescia 23/10/04-3/4/05
3,079 267,859 Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago 16/7/05-10/10/05

for the complete listing please refer to


with kind regards,

Matthias Arnold (Art-Eastasia list)


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