The Metropolitan Museum of Art Breaks Attendance Records Despite $10 Million Deficit

Attendance went up by 400,000 since last year.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo Steven Pisano, via Flickr.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo Steven Pisano, via Flickr.

Despite a $10 million deficit that has led to significant cutbacks (and rumors of coming layoffs), New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art had its best year ever in attendance. According to the New York Times, the storied museum raked in a total of 6.7 million visitors in the fiscal year that ended June 30—a whopping 400,000 boost compared to the previous year, which was itself a record.

This number accounts for the combined attendance records of all three locations, including the newly-opened Met Breuer. A dedicated contemporary gallery space in the former home of the Whitney, the new outpost made serious waves with its inaugural exhibition, “Unfinished.” The Met Fifth Avenue and the Met Cloisters collectively brought in 200,000 more people than in last year, with the Met Breuer’s 185,000 visitors accounting for the rest of the increase.

Among the year’s most popular exhibitions was “Transitional Object (PsychoBarn),” the rooftop commission from Cornelia Parker, at over 340,000 visitors to date. The Costume Institute delivered twice over, with “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology,” which has already drawn over 540,000 visitors, and last year’s record-setting “China: Through the Looking Glass,” which saw 815,000 visitors, many of whom counted toward the most recent fiscal year.

It’s been a busy year for the institution, which unveiled a widely-criticized re-branding effort timed to the opening of the Met Breuer in March. In February, the museum clarified its admissions policy following the conclusion of a three-year-old class action lawsuit. (The Met anticipates receiving 30 to 40 cents less per guest thanks to the change in language from “recommended” to “suggested” price.)

The Met Breuer. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Met Breuer. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Stacked up against its international competitors, the Met maintained its position as one of the most widely-visited museums in the world on the Art Newspaper‘s 2015 museum attendance survey. Even with this year’s attendance uptick, it remains unlikely to surpass the Louvre, which was the world’s most visited museum with just under 9 million visitors—although the British Museum in London, which was second with 6.8 million attendees, remains within reach.

But high attendance isn’t necessarily the most important institutional benchmark to celebrate. “We don’t look at attendance as the primary marker of success at all,” Glenn Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art, told artnet News’s Philip Boroff in 2014.


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