Metropolitan Museum Tops 5 Million Visitors, with a Little Help from Picasso and Vermeer

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Upon closing the books on its 2010 fiscal year (which ended yesterday), the Metropolitan Museum of Art has tallied its attendance clickers and found reason to celebrate. In the past twelve months, the institution saw 5,240,000 visitors, making it the first year since 2001 that the Met has surpassed the five million mark. The annual attendance figure, which includes visitors to The Cloisters and gardens, is among the highest in the museum’s 130-year history. For director Thomas P. Campbell, the landmark attendance “sends a signal about the enduring importance of culture and cultural institutions to the public,” he noted in a statement issued by the museum, “especially during this period of recession.”

Drawing the biggest crowds were last fall’s exhibition featuring Vermeer‘s “The Milkmaid” and the current Picasso blockbuster, which focuses exclusively on the vast array of works by Picasso in the Met’s own collection. Both exhibitions exceeded 300,000 visitors, and the Picasso show still has several weeks of prime tourist season to go. Meanwhile, around 175,000 people have already taken in “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity” (video below), the first Costume Institute exhibition drawn from the newly established Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Met. Sounds like the museum’s budget-conscious move to draw heavily on its permanent collection for exhibitions is really paying off.