Magic of light on water at Tate was biggest draw

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The Independent Online

The shimmering effects of light over water produced by Turner, Whistler and Monet were the biggest hit among British exhibition-goers last year.

Figures compiled by The Art Newspaper reveal that the Tate Britain exhibition highlighting the three artists attracted more than 4,000 visitors a day, beating the Royal Academy's show on the Turks into second place.

The Frida Kahlo exhibition at Tate Modern, the first to be dedicated solely to the Mexican painter, took third place, with more than 3,000 people paying every day to see her works.

However, none of the British shows compared for pulling power with the biggest displays in Japan, where attendances have soared since its government semi-privatised all state museums five years ago, forcing galleries to generate profits from tickets and merchandise.

An exhibition dedicated to Hokusai, the Japanese artist famed for his woodblock prints, pulled in a staggering 9,436 visitors a day at the Tokyo National Museum at the end of last year, making it the most visited show in the world and the most popular since The Art Newspaper began its annual figures in 1996.

However, the art analysts Kay Itoi and Jane Morris, who compiled the lists for the journal, question the experience for the visitor when so many people are admitted at any one time. They reveal that the number of shows attracting more than 1,000 visitors a day has fallen since 2004, but it is unclear if this is because they have been deterred by "bone-crushing experiences".

The Tate allowed only 500 visitors at any one time into Turner Whistler Monet, reducing the bottlenecks and cramming faced by art-lovers in Japan. These restrictions may explain why the show reaches only number 19 on the list of most visited shows in the world behind four in Tokyo and eight in New York.

Charles Saatchi's show, The Triumph of Painting, Part II, at his gallery in London's former County Hall, made it into the British top 10 at number nine. Saatchi has since left the site after a dispute with the landlords.

The one show outside the capital to make the British top 10 was The Philosopher's Garden at the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art marking the centenary of the Entente Cordiale.