Millions more people now visiting UK galleries and museums, research shows

A new report has shown that the number of visitors to cultural institutions across the UK increased by 3.2% from 2014-2015, with London alone seeing 65 million visitors to its museums and galleries.

Somerset House, © Bob Broglia
Somerset House, © Bob Broglia

Research has shown that the British public are more engaged with museums, galleries and art and design exhibitions than they were two years ago.

A report from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions has shown that more people in the UK are now visiting cultural institutions, with some museums seeing visitor numbers increase by a third from 2014 – 2015.

Visitor numbers higher than 2014

The research shows that UK attractions saw a 3.2% rise in visitor numbers last year compared to 2014.

The biggest increase was for Somerset House, which saw a 31% increase in visitors – totalling at more than three million – in 2015, attributed to its “temporary exhibitions and public programmes”.

The Royal Academy saw a 33% increase in visitors, which it has credited to its exhibition on renowned sculptor and architect Ai Weiwei.

The Tate Liverpool’s visitor numbers were also up by 12%, while the National Museum of Scotland was the most visited free attraction in Scotland with more than 1.5 million visitors. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art also saw a 35% increase, after hosting an exhibition on M.C. Escher.

McQueen was V&A’s most popular exhibition

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty proved to be the V&A in London’s most popular exhibition, receiving almost 500,000 people last year. London’s institutions alone saw 65 million visitors in 2015, a 1.6% increase on the year before.

UK’s engagement with culture high compared to other nations

Bernard Donoghue, director at ALVA, says he expects 2016 to be “another memorable year” with upcoming cultural milestones including the opening of the extended Tate Modern, and Wolfgang Buttress’ installation for the Milan Expo 2015 arriving at the Royal Botanic Gardens, both in June.

The news follows research conducted by BOP Consulting and Creative Industries Federation in January, which showed that the UK public’s engagement with culture is highest, compared to France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Korea and the USA.

UK government spending on culture comparatively low

Data showed that 52% of the adult population had visited a museum or art gallery in 2015, and that the UK has the highest number of arts and cultural venues per head – however, it also showed that government spending on arts is comparatively low, sitting at just £59 per head.

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