Museums see turnstiles still turn

An Old Master rules, but museum visitors still go for Van Gogh, too. And New York museums turned the turnstiles fastest - until Sept. 11 hit.

Those are headlines from a worldwide survey of art-museum attendance in 2001 conducted by London's The Art Newspaper.

Topping the list of blockbuster shows (ranked by the average number of daily visitors, not the total number of visitors) was "Vermeer and the Delft School," which averaged 8,033 viewers each day during its 11-week run at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Met also hosted the second-most popular exhibition: "Jacqueline Kennedy: White House Years," which averaged 7,178 daily viewers.

Only one exhibition repeated in the Top 10 from the year before: "Van Gogh: Face to Face," which did big box office in Boston and Detroit in 2000, did even better in Philadelphia (No. 5 worldwide) last year.

In all, six of the Top 10 exhibitions were hosted by New York City museums (Tokyo, Amsterdam, Philadelphia, and Florence, Italy, were the other locales). Quite a change from the year 2000 rankings, when no New York museums were among the Top 10.

Of course, both New York exhibitions occurred before Sept. 11. A survey released last month by the Association of Art Museum Directors said that New York museums now face "a special set of challenges" because of reductions in both tourism and city funding.

But overall, the museum directors had encouraging news. Nearly 80 percent of the 134 American museums surveyed matched or exceeded their projections for attendance in the past four months - and only one canceled its building plans - defying some expectations that museums nationwide would suffer from Sept. 11 fallout.

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