Masterworks vs. the Masses
Thursday, September 4, 2014
New York Times (07/28/14) Donadio, Rachel
Great museums across Europe increasingly are having to manage record crowds with the emergence of new middle classes, especially from Asia and Eastern Europe. The world's busiest art museum, the Louvre, had 9.3 million visitors last year, while the British Museum had a record 6.7 million visitors. Museums usually do not want to limit attendance. For example, the Hermitage museum's Nina V. Silanteva says the only obstacle is “the physical limitations of the space itself, or the number of hangers in the coat room during the winter.” However, museums are taking measures to manage the crowds and protect the artwork by offering timed tickets, extending hours, staying open seven days a week, and upgrading air conditioning and climate control systems. Although most of the art has survived the press of growing crowds, some mishaps have been reported. Museum-goers also have suffered pickpockets, stifling heat, and have been pushed, shoved, and stepped on by fellow art fans. Meanwhile, some staff members have allowed in more people than fire codes dictate is safe, and tickets for special exhibits have been resold at exorbitant prices. For example, in 2011 websites were reselling $25 tickets to the National Gallery in London’s Leonardo da Vinci blockbuster exhibit for as much as $400. Other museum-goers purchase annual memberships in order to have priority access to museums.
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