A show of Vincent van Gogh paintings is often considered the closest to a sure thing, attendance-wise, in the art world and so it has proved for the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. On Tuesday the gallery was reporting that its critically acclaimed Van Gogh: Up Close exhibition had drawn a total paid attendance of just over 230,100 visitors.
This was 15 per cent higher than the NGC’s original projection for the show which opened May 25 and closed on Labour Day. It was also more than double the attendance (of 109,000) the NGC had for its 2011 summer blockbuster, Caravaggio and His Followers, and ranks as the best-attended single NGC show since Renoir’s Portraits: Impressions of an Age ran in the summer of 1997. It’s also the fourth-best-attended exhibition since the NGC moved into its Moshe Safdie-designed building on Sussex Drive in 1988.
Five years in preparation, Van Gogh: Up Close was the first major exhibition in Canada of paintings by the Dutch master (1853-1890) in more than 25 years and featured almost 50 paintings, mostly intimate still lifes and nature studies, culled from collections around the world. The show was organized by the NGC in association with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which mounted the show first (Feb. 1-May 6, 2012).
The success of the van Gogh positions the NGC to have a much more successful fiscal year, in attendance terms, for 2012-13 than 2011-2012, where total attendance was about 350,000.