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Metropolitan Museum Sets New Attendance Record with 7 Million Visitors

Amid a turbulent year, the institution announced yesterday that it set a new attendance record that surpasses last year’s then-record high of 6.7 million.

Visitors on the Met’s roof, which currently features Adrian Villar Rojas’s “Theater of Disappearance” (photo by Benjamin Sutton for Hyperallergic)

Perhaps the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s decision to swap its iconic metal admission button for more economical stickers — as sad as it was — was really a good idea: the institution announced yesterday that it set a new record for annual attendance of seven million visitors, which surpasses last year’s then-record high of 6.7 million. Attendance has been growing over the last couple of years, exceeding six million since 2012.

The figures, which were recorded over this past fiscal year ending on June 30, represent visitors across the museum’s three locations: the Met Fifth Avenue, the Met Cloisters, and the Met Breuer. According to a press release, the jump in attendance stems primarily from the stream of people visiting the Met Breuer, which opened in the former Whitney Museum building last spring. It received a total of 505,590 visitors, nearly half of whom were counted in the attendance for the new location’s inaugural show on unfinished artworks. The rest of the numbers are divided almost evenly between the exhibition on Diane Arbus’s early photos and Kerry James Marshall’s retrospective.

Of course, the vast majority of the millions arrives from the Fifth Avenue building’s statistics. The Met Fifth Avenue continues to be one of the city’s top attractions for both domestic and international crowds. As per the press release, just over a third of the museum’s attendees are international visitors, while another third are from New York City and 12% of visitors come from the tri-state area.

The Met’s most popular exhibition of the 2017 fiscal year was a historical one: the massive and wondrous Age of Empires, that received almost 300,000 visitors over four months, as of June 30 (it ends this weekend). But chasing it, unsurprisingly, is the Costume Institute’s survey of designs by Rei Kawakubo, which has been open for less than three months and has brought in over 275,000. Other major shows that helped boost figures include last year’s exhibition on medieval Jerusalem, which actually locked in slightly more visitors (over 200,000) during its four-month run than Adrian Villar Rojas’s Instagram-ready rooftop commission, which opened in April.

The good news follows what’s been less than a smooth season for the museum, which infamously faces a massive deficit and, in February, came under scrutiny after former director Thomas P. Campbell suddenly resigned. His departure turned scandalous two months later, when reports emerged of Campbell allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a staff member. The museum has not yet replaced Campbell, but it announced in early June that its president and chief operating officer Daniel H. Weiss will lead and run the museum while searching for a new director.

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