A recent report by The Art Newspaper and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) highlighted a disturbing trend. While the British museums’ attendance was increasing, even after the 2008 crisis, it has been dropping since 2014. The British would be the ones who would attend the exhibitions less.
The last reports show that in 2008 the number of visitors of the 15 main museums partly financed by the British government reached 39.7 millions. Such a number has not stopped increasing to peak in 2014 at 50.8 millions. A certain hint of relief was then felt by the Art world. Indeed, the crisis obviously did not impact the museums’ attendance. However, if we take a look at the trends from 2014 to 2018, the analysis is very different. The number of visitors dropped and reached 46.5 millions in 2017. Such a trend did not go without springing a surprise. Some said it was due to the exclusion of the Tyne & Wear Museums’ figures from the reports even though it attracts close to 1.8 million visitors. However, even when we add it up to the equation, the tendency remains.
All indicators are green expect for the British citizens attendance rate
Most of the British museums’ visitors are, unsurprisingly, international tourists. Indeed, they represent 47% of the attendance. However, there has been an increase of 5% of international tourism since 2015 despite the Brexit. Therefore, everything points out to the fact that the decrease may be the result of British citizens less likely to visit exhibitions. Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery in London said “overseas visitor numbers were not down and the fall in numbers seemed to be from the United Kingdom.” The reasons of such an assessment seem multiple. The economic and political situation both nationally and internationally is to be analyzed.
The reasons of the British citizens’ attendance decrease
One of the first facts that impact the British attendance to museums seems to be terrorism. Indeed, the recent incidents of the London Bridge, the Westminster Bridge and Manchester participated in the tension of the country’s social climate. It can be clearly noticed when comparing the children under 16 year-old attendance rates which decreased of 6% in 2016. But this is not it. The drop of British citizens’ income to which the Brexit participated, is also to be taken into account. Moreover, since the transportation costs did not go cheaper, the mobility of external visitors shrinked. Some experts like historian Robert Hewison link the decrease to the government funding cuts. In addition, there has been an increase in the entrance tickets prices which directly impact visitors. For instance the Picasso 1932 exhibition at the Tate Modern went above the symbolic line of 20 pounds. The Art Newspaper warns its readers about the “vicious circle” and reminds that the consequences can also be important for indirect actors such as museums’ shops and catering services for instance.
Read our article about photographers and Art-Trope Artists Isabelle and Amar Guillen here.