The Australian who beat Renoir

Visual Arts Writer

An exhibition by a contemporary Melbourne artist was the second most visited art show in 2016, beating exhibitions by Renoir, Picasso and Frida Kahlo.
The Australian who beat Renoir

The Art Newspaper has revealed the top visitation to exhibitions globally in 2016, in a teaser for its annual Visitors Survey, full results of which will be released next month.

In an exciting revelation, Melbourne-based artist Patricia Piccinini was ranked number two in the world, above iconic heavy weights such as Renoir, Picasso and Frida Kahlo.

Piccinini’s free exhibition Consciousness at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB) in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil that drew 8,340 visitors a day to the CCBB in Rio de Janeiro, a total of 444,425 over the exhibition period.


While Piccinini's eccentric, hyper-realist genetic hybrids were a hit, some of the success must be due to the popular venue and the fact that the exhibition was free.  The same venue scored number one with a free exhibition of Post-Impressionist Masterpieces.

On top of the 444,425 visitors in Rio, Piccinini drew another 5,200 to its Brasilia venue and 3,100 to its São Paulo branch.

‘That (also) makes Piccinini the top contemporary artist in this year’s survey,’ said The Art Newspaper.

What do the numbers say?

The Art Newspaper reports that this year’s list of the Top 10 Contemporary Exhibitions in 2016 is ‘not so much a true indicator of quality as a reflection of the allure of cost-free gallery visits’, in comparison to 2015 which had only four free shows included.

The counter argument to ‘quality’ is one that talks about global economies and today’s audiences more proactive habits to seek out free over paid entertainment, and museums working better with sponsors to provide more for their public.

The Art Newspaper also stated that Piccinini’s work had been 'largely ignored by major international museum collections' to date, and the implication was that the numbers were a wake up call. But Piccinini is certainly no stranger to international coverage, which includes representing Australia at the Venice Biennale in 2003.


Australia also makes the Big Ticket category

Australia also made the Top 15 Big Ticket events in 2016. The Big Ticket category covers events that cannot be properly compared to regular museums exhibitions.

Understandably, the lead was taken by Christo’s Floating Piers (2016) on Lake Iseo – his first outdoor installation since 2005. Christo erected 3km of fabric-covered pontoons between an island and the shore and invited the public to walk on water.

In total, 1.2 million people experienced the site-specific installation over 16 days last summer, an average of around 75,000 a day.

But coming in at number eleven was the 20th Biennale of Sydney with 8.043 visitors daily, or a total of 643,437 over the exhibition period.

ArtsHub will look at how our other institutions sat on the global stage when the full numbers are released.

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