Tate Modern edges out British Museum for top attendance spot

Tate Modern edges out British Museum for top attendance spot
Inside Tate Modern. Courtesy Flickr Commons.
Leading lights

Drum roll, please…

Recently, Visit England, a tourism organization, released the findings of their survey assessing what museums were most popular in 2018. The report found that Tate Modern saw an increase of four percent in attendance allowing it to overtake the British Museum as the most visited museum last year.

Tate Modern is one of England’s free museums to visit but their programme of rotating exhibitions usually costs an admission fee. With some of the more expensive temporary exhibition prices, the museum has introduced initiatives to help attract younger audiences since a high price tag often deters younger generations. In 2018, Tate Modern introduced a membership specifically geared to attract those between the ages of 16 and 25. With that membership, individuals can visit the museum’s plethora of exhibitions for a discounted rate of £5, which isn’t a bad price compared to the £25 price tag that accompanies some of the museum’s shows. The scheme seems to be paying off as well given that since April 2018, about 100,000 people acquired that membership. In general, though, Visit England’s survey found temporary exhibitions to be among the top reasons that people, particularly international visitors, made their way to the museum.

While Tate Modern made it to the top spot, the report showed an overall view of the museum sector that wasn’t exactly bad news but it wasn’t stellar, either. Some things, like increased international tourism and a weaker exchange rate on the pound led to upticks in attendance. Unfortunately, the overall six percent increase in attendance across museums over last year doesn’t quite fix issues of dwindling attendance. In fact, between 2015 and 2017, the British Museum, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, together, saw a decrease in attendance of about 16 percent. Tate Britain didn’t have a great year either. Over the course of 2018, the museum saw a 28 percent drop in attendance – a painful reality after having a promising 2017. The British Museum welcomed almost one million less visitors over the course of the year, too. A spokesperson for the British Museum said that so far for 2018-2019, the museum’s attendance is up by 10 percent despite having seen a decrease in international visitors over the last two years.

As for other museums around England, Tate St Ives saw an increase of 36 percent in visitors bringing their totals up to 300,00 for the year. That success was made sweeter by winning the 2018 Art Fund museum of the year prize. The Victoria and Albert Museum also saw an increase of four percent in attendance while other museums followed the trending downward dip. Finally, London’s Royal Academy of the Arts saw an impressive increase of 50 percent over the course of 2018 much in part thanks to their expansion, designed by David Chipperfield, which opened up.

Of course, museum attendance can be a tricky thing as there are different ways by which you can measure it. For this reason, at the moment, the British Museum has edged out the National Gallery and Tate Modern for higher spots on the attendance poll for the fiscal year, which began July 1st. It all depends on perspective.