Paris Museum of Modern Art
(MAM) Director Fabrice Hergott recently explained why record numbers of people
visited winter exhibits at museums throughout Paris. He explained that since
all museums observe the same cost-benefit economic principles, museum management
committees budget productions based on estimated visitors and try to put on a large
event that will serve as a draw on a semi-regular basis.
In 2011, nine million people visited the Louvre; last year that number reached 10 million. The 3.8 million visitors to the Centre Pompidou represented a 5.5% increase compared to 2011 (The Centre Pompidou has experienced 48% growth in the number or museum attendees in the last six years.) Meanwhile, the Musee d'Orsay recorded its best attendance numbers in twenty years with 3.6 million visitors. The surge in museum visitors has resulted in a robust market for Paris museum passes.
Many industry experts attribute the blockbuster attendance numbers to an increase in temporary exhibitions. The popular exhibits in Paris have attracted huge crowds and surpassed the expectations of even the experts.
Museums are raking in the profits as a result of solo exhibitions devoted to well-loved artists, with one-man shows clearly the biggest draw in the city. Although artists dead and alive are big draws for the museums, exhibitions dedicated to modern artists and photographers have a tendency to attract considerably fewer guests. Attendance for thematic exhibitions is even lower. As a result of spotting these trends Paris’s museums have adapted to the swell in shows and visitors and become professionals at coping with jam-packed lines and galleries teeming with art enthusiasts. Some of the museums have remained open for 24 hours a day to accommodate all of the people with Paris museum passes that wish to see these exhibits.
Christophe Leribault, Director ofthe Petit Palais— where the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts is housed— revealed that the secret of success is to find a good theme, an even better title and work the communications angle. Meanwhile the nearby Grand Palais has hosted wildly successful retrospectives on Impressionist genius Claude Monet (913,000 visitors) and the renowned Pablo Picasso (783,000 visitors). American realist painter Dennis Hopper’s exhibit, which ended February 3, had sold 700,000 tickets well before the end of its run at the Petit Palais.
Although the boom in art exhibits has been universally lauded, some experts are reserving judgment on the trend. French sociologist Alain Quemin, who specializes in contemporary art and is Professor of Sociology of Art at the Institute of European Studies of the University of Paris VIII and Honorary Member of the l’Institut Universitaire de France feels that the influx of art shows is a mixed blessing. He recently told the press, “Some [of the exhibits] measure up to scientific and esthetic requirements, others simply respond to economic pressure. In both cases, marketing rules.''