Blockbuster shows with international appeal have their detractors among critics, but more and more among paying visitors, too. Their complaint is that, having paid double-digit prices, they are herded through too fast and with so many others that they can't actually see the pictures. Gauguin, which closed yesterday at Tate Modern, attracted particular venom.
Major galleries use these big exhibitions to help offset free admission to their standing collections, but they will have to do something to avoid killing the goose that has laid such golden eggs. With three big shows in the diary for this year – Leonardo, Miro and Degas – the risk is that the overcrowding, and the visitor unhappiness, increase.
Ensuring that very popular exhibitions are in the biggest spaces could help, as could larger captions, so that visitors don't have to dart to and fro. Longer hours could also be part of a solution, with early morning opening, and all-nighters, on the Paris model, in the last week. The regrettable alternative is that word of mouth, or blog, from disenchanted punters keeps visitors at home. That might thin the crowd, but it would do nothing for the bottom line. Perhaps the brutal truth is that galleries have started to get greedy and need to consider their paying visitors a little more.