The Met down 1.7 million visitors compared to pre-pandemic level—the biggest drop of any US art museum

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York had 1.7 million fewer visitors in 2022 than before the pandemic, according to The Art Newspaper‘s latest Visitor Figures survey. Last year, the museum’s main building on Fifth Avenue had more than 3.2 million visitors compared to almost 4.9 million in 2019—a drop of 34%. (The museum “implemented a new, digital programme” for counting visitors in 2020, which means the 2019 figure has been retrospectively revised to make comparisons fairer).

The Met was not alone among New York’s major institutions in experiencing a drop in attendance compared to 2019, with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (down 42%), the Whitney Museum of American Art (down 19%) and the Brooklyn Museum (down 17%) all still below their pre-Covid figures. Only the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was up, by 10%, but this was because its 2019 figure of nearly 2 million visitors was lower than normal as the museum was closed for four months of renovations.

The Met is usually the most popular US museum in our survey, but in 2022 it was pipped to the top spot by the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC, which had almost 3.3 million visitors. However, the Met’s figure does not include visitors to the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan (196,000 visitors in 2022), which is separated in our survey to give a more representative footfall figure. If the Met’s two locations were combined, their attendance would surpass that of the NGA. The Met was then followed by MoMA in third place (2.2 million visitors) and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in fourth (1.1 million visitors).

A spokesperson for the Met says that visitor numbers for this year are looking better though. “The return of our visitors has significantly outpaced our forecasts, particularly in recent months. For 2023, our local and national visitors are over 95% of pre-Covid levels, and overall we are enjoying 78% of our pre-Covid audience.”

In 2022, tourism to New York was 85% of the pre-pandemic level and is expected to recover further in 2023. “International visitor numbers are slowly building—beginning with the closer regions,” says the Met spokesperson. “We are very optimistic for 2023.”

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