York Art Gallery visitor figures fall 100k short of target - Museums Association

York Art Gallery visitor figures fall 100k short of target

Gallery introduced entry charge last year after council cuts
Profile image for Geraldine Kendall Adams
Geraldine Kendall Adams
Visitor numbers to York Art Gallery have fallen 100,000 short of expectations in the year since the gallery reopened following an £8m renovation.

York Museums Trust (YMT), which runs the gallery, had predicted that it would attract 190,000 visitors in the eight months between its reopening in August 2015 and the end of March 2016 – an average of 23,750 visitors a month.

But the latest figures show that 91,896 visitors came to the gallery in the year between 1 August 2015 and 31 July 2016, a figure that averages out at 7,658 a month.

Visitor figures are also down on where they stood before the gallery’s redevelopment. In 2011-12, the last full year before it closed, the gallery welcomed 226,404 visitors through its doors.

YMT was forced to introduce a controversial £7.50 entry charge at the previously free gallery when it reopened. In a statement last year, the trust said the charge was necessary after York City Council broke the terms of a five-year guaranteed funding agreement and imposed significant additional cuts to the trust’s £1.2m annual budget. Council funding came to just £605,000 in 2015/16, less than 10% of the trust’s overall income.
A spokesman for the trust told Museums Journal that the predicted figure was "an ambitious target and was not used in the trust’s financial forecasting or budget".

He added that the figures had also been affected by last winter's flooding, which caused a 5% drop in visitors to the city between January and April.    

The spokesman said: "The introduction of charging at York Art Gallery has helped YMT reduce the impact of the cuts in funding from the City of York Council. The revenue generated has not matched the loss of funding but has allowed YMT to remain economically viable."

The trust has had greater success with the introduction of the YMT Card, recently marking the sale of its 20,000th card. The YMT Card, which normally costs £22, entitles holders to a year’s unlimited entry to York Art Gallery, York Castle Museum and Yorkshire Museum & Gardens.

It is available to some eligible residents free of charge, and to students and York Council Tax payers at a reduced rate.

York Art Gallery was met with critical acclaim when it reopened, making the shortlist for this year's Art Fund Museum of the Year award.

Article updated to include a comment and additional information from YMT.

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