Martin Boyce Turner Prize 2011 Installation view BALTIC presents Turner Prize 2011 © BALTIC & the artist Photo: Colin Davison

Regional galleries pull in the crowds

Simon Stephens, 10.01.2012
Baltic and Fitzwilliam hit the jackpot
Regional museums and galleries are proving that good temporary exhibitions can pull in the crowds, with the Baltic in Gateshead and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge both achieving notable successes.

The Turner Prize exhibition at the Baltic attracted nearly 150,000 visitors by the time it closed on 7 January. This was only the second time that the Turner Prize exhibition was shown outside London following the successful show at Tate Liverpool in 2007-08. The exhibition usually attracts less than 100,000 when it’s in London.

“Bringing Turner Prize 2011 to Baltic was always an exciting and intriguing prospect,” said the gallery's director Godfrey Worsdale. 

“But my colleagues and I have been overwhelmed by the levels of public interest, not only the sheer numbers of visitors who have queued along the quayside to see the work of the four nominees, but the spirited response those visitors have made it to the exhibition and their willingness to throw their support behind what the artists are doing.”

The prize was won by Martin Boyce, ahead of Karla Black, Hilary Lloyd and George Shaw.

Vermeer’s Women: Secrets and Silence at the Fitzwilliam Museum had attracted about 117,000 people by 6 January, with a week to go before the exhibition closes on 15 January.

The museum reacted to the high demand by introducing later opening hours from 3 January. The exhibition focuses on the 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer and explores the appeal of the women in his paintings, contrasting four of his works with 28 paintings by other master painters of the Dutch Golden Age.

Fitzwilliam's director Timothy Potts said: “This is the first time any exhibition at the Fitzwilliam has achieved over 100,000 visitors. The increased opening hours will make it easier for people who work to visit, and for those who have already seen it once to do so again at a quieter time of day when there will be more space to view the works.”

Other regional galleries have high hopes for the success of exhibitions they are staging this year.

Turner and the Elements opens later this month (28 January-13 May) at Turner Contemporary in Margate. It brings together 88 works by Turner, many from Tate’s collection.

The summer show at Abbott Hall Art Gallery in the Lake District will be Francis Bacon to Paula Rego (23 June-16 September). It will feature some big names in 20th century art such as David Hockney and Lucian Freud as well as Bacon and Rego.