Visitor figures for the Royal Academy and the Tate Modern pushed up by blockbuster exhibition and popular new extension

Kenza Bryan
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A visitor looks at a work of the French...
A popular exhibition with paintings by Monet has been credited with boosting the Royal Academy's popularity (Source: Getty)

London's cultural attractions welcomed 66,938,947 visitors last year, with the Tate Modern and the Royal Academy doing particularly well.

The Tate Modern’s new ten-storey extension, which opened in June, is thought to be behind the 23.9 per cent increase in visitors to the gallery in 2016. More than half of the solo displays in the striking 200 ft pyramid-like tower are by women artists.

The Royal Academy put the 17 per cent increase in their visitor numbers down to popular exhibitions such as 'Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse' in the spring and the annual Summer Exhibition. The latter was visited 229,200 times, the second highest number received by the Royal Academy since 1995 and only the seventh time since World War One that the institution has attracted more than 200,000 visitors.

Although the number of visits to London attractions in 2016 was higher than the total population of the UK, there was no change to the total number compared to last year.

The British Museum, the National Gallery and the Tate Modern were the three most popular attractions, with the Natural History Museum and Southbank Centre following close behind.

The UK as a whole saw a 7.2 per cent increase on 2015, although Scotland outperformed the rest of the United Kingdom with a 15.6 per cent increase.

Bernard Donoghue, Director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (DALVA), commented: “Many of our members in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Cornwall had record years in 2016, although the first 9 months of 2016 were unquestionably hard for our members, particularly in London, for many reasons. However by the end of the year nearly all attractions were reporting growth from visitors from overseas and the rest of the UK.”

The organisation is expecting a “memorable” year for British cultural institutions, with an ongoing David Hockney exhibition at the Tate Britain and a Pink Floyd exhibition at the V&A both likely to do well.

The British Library is planning a Harry Potter exhibition for October, to mark twenty years since the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

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