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Visitors Fell in Love with Modern British Art & Design in 2012 According to Visitor Figures Issued by ALVA


British Art & Design was hugely popular, with Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman helping the British Museum remain the most popular visitor attraction for the 6th year running (5,575,946); while the Tate Moderns retrospective of Damien Hirst was credited with enabling the gallery to see a 9% increase in visitor numbers, to become the 2nd most visited attraction, compared to 3rd in 2011.

The hugely popular Lucian Freud Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery assisted in the gallerys 12% increase, and elevation to 8th place.

Hollywood Glamour and British Design helped the V&A to have its best ever year, with a 16% increase - attracting 3,231,700 visitors  including many to their Hollywood Costume exhibition that was held in the Autumn, while Beaulieu, in Hampshire saw an 18% increase in visitor numbers due to its 007 Exhibition Bond in Motion  50 vehicles, 50 years.

The most popular visited free attraction outside London was National Museum of Scotland  which had a 29.11% increase to 1,893,521 - and making it the first Scottish attraction to ever appear in the top 10 ALVA figures, while Chester Zoo was the most popular paid for attraction outside London with 1,405,233 visitors, followed by Edinburgh Castle with 1,230,177 visitors. Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in Glasgow was the most popular combined Art Gallery and Museum in the UK, achieving a 5.8% increase with 1,037,594 visitors.

Investment in Visitor Attractions continued to reap rewards, with the newly refurbished Kensington Palace seeing a 41% increase in visitors. One of largest increases in visitors (53%) was seen by the new Museum of Liverpool, which opened in July 2011. It attracted more than 1million visitors and was the most visited museum in England, outside London. This had a noticeable halo effect on the other museums in Liverpool such as the Walker Art Gallery  who credited their 40% increase in visitors numbers to the exhibition Rolf Harris: Can you tell what it is yet? which ran from May through to August. The Tate Liverpool saw a 6% increase, while the International Slavery Museum saw a 9% increase and the Lady Lever Art Gallery increased their visitor numbers by 7%.

It was the weather rather than the Olympic and Paralympic Games that took its toll on full-year visitor numbers, and of the 30 attractions that saw a double-digit decline  27 of these were either gardens or outdoor attractions. Although, one attraction which bucked the trend and developed its outdoor element was Osborne on the Isle of Wight, where English Heritage opened Queen Victorias private beach for the first time to the public in late July, and saw an increase of 7.5% in visitors.

Bernard Donoghue, Director of ALVA, commented: We are delighted with the visitor figures and although the Olympics deterred visitors from Central London, and there was a noticeable decline in visitors to attractions while the Games took place, the recovery was almost immediate after the Games left town.

He continued: This year, 2013 looks like it is going to be a promising year for ALVA members - The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich is likely to attract visitors because of its role as a backdrop in the hugely popular and award-winning film Les Miserables.

Also during 2013, there will be several openings including the £35 million heritage project to build a museum to house the Mary Rose, together with her collection of almost 19,000 artefacts, which will open early this year at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in a new boat-shaped museum! Blackpool Pleasure Beach will open the new Wallace & Gromit Thrill-O-Matic family ride, while English Heritage will open the new Stonehenge exhibition galleries and visitor centre at the end of the year.Another property in the care of English Heritage, Kenwood House - Robert Adamís 18th century masterpiece in north London and home to one of the greatest art collections in Britain will re-open in November 2013 following a 20-month closure for repair and refurbishment.

Click here to view the full list of ALVA member visitor figures for 2012 (

For further information on ALVA and to download images, please visit
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The members of ALVA are the UKís most popular, iconic and important museums, galleries, palaces, castles, cathedrals, zoos, historic houses, heritage sites, gardens and leisure attractions. The 44 members manage some nearly 2,000 tourist sites and welcome over 100 million domestic and overseas visitors each year; some 25% of the visits made annually in the United Kingdom. To qualify for membership, the attractions must host over a million visitors per year at their singly or centrally-managed sites.


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