IHBC’s ‘Heritage from the (museum) doorstep’: V&A’s ‘less scary’ entrance drives up visitor numbers

websiteThe Guardian has reported on how the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) has bucked its trend of falling numbers with a new piazza and Pink Floyd show.

The Guardian writes:

A new and less intimidating entrance has helped the V&A achieve record visitor numbers, bucking a trend of sharp falls across the UK’s museums and galleries. The museum said more than 4.4 million people visited the V&A and its London satellites, Blythe House and the Museum of Childhood. That represents a 26% rise of almost a million visitors on the previous year. It announced the figures, which the chair of the V&A, Nicholas Coleridge, described as ‘phenomenal’, as it published its annual review and revealed an exhibition programme for 2019 that includes major shows on food and cars.

The museum’s director, Tristram Hunt, said finally getting a new entrance on Exhibition Road had helped drive up visitor numbers. It was less intimidating than the grand ‘castle keep’ way in on Cromwell Road.  ‘All the data we have shows that it is much more attractive to non-traditional museumgoers,’ said Hunt. ‘It is less, frankly, scary.’

The figures were also boosted by the success of its Pink Floyd show…

Visitor numbers for 2017 have fallen at other national museums and galleries in London, with a dramatic fall of 35% at the National Portrait Gallery and 16.5% at the National Gallery. Among the causes have been rail problems, fear of terrorism and the expense of London travel and restaurants.

The V&A opened its new £55m porcelain-tiled piazza and entrance, together with underground exhibition space, last June. Designed by Amanda Levete Architects, it was the successor to the polarising 1997 design by Daniel Libeskind, once described as ‘the Guggenheim in Bilbao turned on its side and then beaten senseless with a hammer’. Plans for the Spiral were eventually pulled in 2004….

Hunt said the V&A had been unashamedly populist since it opened in 1852. ‘Whether it is our Fabergé exhibitions of the past, or Britain Can Make It in 1946, we’ve had this long history of attractive, popular exhibitions and I hope these will be in the same lineage as that whilst not giving an inch in the scholarship.’

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