The World's Most Popular Exhibitions in 2018

Museums are popular. They attract more people in the UK each year than football matches. Rare collections command long queues. Last year proved no exception. The top five art museums (Musée du Louvre, The National Museum of China, The Met, the Vatican Museums and the Tate Modern) together attracted some 38 million visitors last year.

Each yearthe Art Newspaper publishes a survey of the most visited exhibitions across the globe. We take a look at some of last year's most popular museums and exhibitions. If you didn't make it to the shows or were lucky enough to go and want to relive the experience, we have included links to the exhibition catalogues and museum guides where available.

Most popular art museums

With some 10.2 million visitors in 2018, The Louvre was the most popular art museum in the world. The Louvre credits the 26% increase in total attendance on the previous year to three factors: the allure of its major show on Eugène Delacroix; the popularity of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s music video “Apeshit”, which was shot in the museum and an upswing in foreign visitors to the city.

The National Museum of China came in second with some 8.6 million visitors, the Met takes third place with 6.9 million visitors, just ahead of the Vatican Museums.

The Tate Modern, the British Museum and the V&A all made the top ten most popular museums worldwide attracting 5.9 million, 5.8 million and 3.9 million visitors respectively.

If you are planning a visit to any of this great museums, do take a look at the excellent museum guides:

1) The Louvre: All The Paintings

2) The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide and

3) The Vatican: All The Paintings

Most popular exhibitions

The single most popular show was the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination - a show that mixed religious works of art with haute couture and was seen by some 1.7 million people (10,919 visitors a day).

Heavenly Bodies

This marked a more widespread increase in the popularity of exhibitions devoted to fashion. The V&A's more popular show allowed visitors to peruse Frida Kahlo's wardrobe. This year, we have seen the museum extend the run of its current Dior show by some seven weeks. MoMA's Items: Is Fashion Modern?, an exhibition that explored the impact of fashion staples was the New York institution’s first fashion show since 1944 and its most popular exhibition of 2018. The Sorolla and Fashion show at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, which paired portraits by the Spanish artist with period-appropriate clothing, was the institution’s third most popular exhibition. 

The most popular art exhibition was the Met Museum's show, Michelangelo : Divine Draftsman and Designer with some 7,893 daily visitors. Other notably popular art shows held in New York included MoMA's Adrian Piper, which achieved impressive figures for a career survey of the conceptual artist.

In London, the Royal Academy of Arts’s Summer Exhibition was the most popular ticketed show in town, beating the RA’s critically acclaimed Charles I show and the Tate Modern’s Picasso 1932, which focused on a single year of the artist’s career,  


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