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Attendance at L.A. museums lags behind

Only the Getty and LACMA make the Art Newspaper's top 100 survey of museum attendance worldwide.

March 30, 2011|By Jori Finkel, Los Angeles Times

The numbers back him up: MOCA drew 51,952 visitors to its Gorky show, not that far off from 69,468 for the same show at the Tate Modern in London (a museum with annual attendance of more than 5 million) earlier last year.

But Deitch acknowledges that strong exhibitions are not always enough to overcome longstanding challenges, such as limited public transit. For instance, he says that "Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective" drew an estimated 65,000 visitors to L.A.'s MOCA when it originated there in 2008. When it traveled to MoMA in New York the following year, it drew more than 305,000 visitors.

One factor that could boost local attendance this year is "Pacific Standard Time," the Getty-funded initiative that begins in October. It involves dozens of Southern California museums staging shows on the origins of the region's art scene, from 1945 to 1980. It's also a concerted marketing effort on their part to raise their profiles and attendance.

Javier Pes, the museum section editor of the Art Newspaper, which is based in London, says he is already well aware of the initiative. "'Pacific Standard Time' really could create a sense of critical mass," he says. "I think it could change the attendance numbers we see next year."

Still, he believes that some tourism challenges particular to L.A. will not go away. "In New York you can visit three museums in a day, maybe more. In L.A., you would never try to do LACMA, the Getty and MOCA in the same day."

jori.finkel@latimes.com

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