Tate Modern welcomed a record 5.3 million visitors in 2012

Click through a gallery of the year's exhibition highlights, below

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The Independent Culture

Despite uncertainty over the "Olympics effect" on cultural institutions in 2012, the year proved golden for Tate Modern which went on to welcomed 5.3m visitors through its doors, the most in its history.

The number of visitors was up 9.5 per cent on 2011 in what Alex Beard, the Tate’s deputy director, described as an “extraordinary year”.

Crowds flocked to the blockbuster Damien Hirst exhibition, the most popular solo show the gallery has staged, as well as the newly-opened performance space The Tanks.

Click here or on "View Images" to see 2012 at Tate Modern in pictures

Mr Beard said: “There was a huge amount of uncertainty over what would happen in Olympics year. We thought the mix of shows would be pretty popular, but – hand on heart – did not think it would break the record.”

The Hirst exhibition, which included some of his most famous and controversial works such as Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living and For the Love of God, attracted 463,000 visitors to the river-side site.

The record for a Tate Modern show is a dual exhibition of work by Matisse and Picasso in 2002, which received 467,000 visitors.

The Tanks opened in July, marking the first permanent space for performance, installation and video art for any gallery around the world. Mr Beard said: “People very quickly got their heads around the experimental space presenting an experimental art form.”

Visitors to its sister gallery Tate Britain rose 4.3 per cent to 1.5 million visitors in 2012 with shows including the current Pre-Raphaelites exhibition.

Mr Beard said the Tate’s performance, as well as other cultural institutions around the country, showed the value of the arts in Britain and London.

“No one comes to London for the transport system,” he said. “Alongside New York it is the most remarkable place on the planet to enjoy culture.”