‘Hilma af Klint’ retrospective break attendance record

‘Hilma af Klint’ retrospective break attendance record
Installation view, Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 12, 2018–February 3, 2019. Photo: David Heald. Courtesy the Guggenheim Museum.

The Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future exhibition, which began on October 12th, at the Guggenheim Museum in New York has been a wildly popular show and now, the numbers are proving it. A few days before the exhibition wrapped up on April 23rd, the museum announced that Hilma af Klint had broken the record for the most visited exhibition in museum history.

On April 18th, the Guggenheim revealed that more than 600,000 visitors had come to see the exhibition, and that was five days before the end of the show. Moreover, the museum extended their opening hours for the final five days to allow more guests the opportunity to see the show. So, the exact guest count is still undisclosed but only solidified the exhibition’s record. The museum also attributed a spike of museum memberships, up 34% since October, to be linked to the popularity of the exhibition. Over 30,000 copies of the Hilma af Klint catalogue were sold breaking a 2009 record of catalogue sales set by Kandinsky.


Hilma af Klint, ‘Altarpieces Group X: No. 1, 1915. Courtesy Flickr Commons.


The exhibition was the first major survey of af Klint’s works in the US that spanned her near 40-year career. Af Klint (1862-1944) was born and worked as a painter in Sweden. During her life, she rarely exhibited her works as she never felt they were quite ready to be seen, so her body of work remained fairly mysterious. However, her paintings show how she, before Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, or Piet Mondrian, began laying the groundwork for abstractionism. Between 1906 and 1915, she painted ‘The Paintings for the Temple,’ af Klint’s first large group of abstract works that she envisioned hanging in a spiral temple. Though this dream was never realized, she continued to work and develop her abstract vocabulary. Her works, though, did not receive much attention until 1986 when they began to attract attention and would for the following decades.

Hilma af Klint, was organized by Tracey Bashkoff, director of collections and senior curator for the Guggenheim alongside David Horowitz, a Guggenheim curatorial assistant. It honed in on af Klint’s works created between 1906 and 1920 as they were her ‘breakthrough years.’


Hilma af Klint, No 5, 1907. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


The total numbers for the exhibition have yet to be released, however, the museum has already moved on to preparations for their next major exhibition that has taken over some of the museum’s galleries. The Hugo Boss Prize 2018: Simone Leigh, Loophole of Retreat began April 19th and will run through October 27th highlighting American artist and winner of the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize Simone Leigh. The exhibition includes new sound installations and sculptures alongside works by Leigh including ceramic sculptures, sound installations, and films by the artist. Throughout her career, Leigh has honed in on notions of blackness through her body of work. When she was awarded the prize, the jury said that they were ‘particularly compelled by Leigh’s longstanding and unwavering commitment to addressing black women as both the subject of and audience for her work.’