As Monet show winds down, BMA ticket sales soar to all-time high

January 17, 1992|By Eric Siegel

The Baltimore Museum of Art's blockbuster Monet exhibition, which ends its 14-week run Sunday, has proven to be both popular and profitable: More than 215,000 people have visited the Monet exhibit, nearly double the attendance for any previous BMA show, the museum announced yesterday.

And, when the final accounting is done, the museum expects revenue generated by the exhibit to exceed the costs of mounting it.

"We're relying on that," said museum director Arnold Lehman.

Mr. Lehman steadfastly refused to say how much money the BMA hoped to make from the exhibit, which is on loan from Bos- ton's Museum of Fine Arts as part of an exchange involving selections from the BMA's famed Cone Collection. But he said any excess funds would go to offset declines in state and city grants to the BMA amounting to $300,000. The museum is closing for two weeks beginning Monday and reducing its hours because of city budget cuts.

Previously, Mr. Lehman said the museum would be able to offset the costs of the Monet exhibit -- including insurance, security and transportation -- by selling 150,000 tickets to the exhibit.

Of the 215,000 visitors to "Claude Monet: Impressionist Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston," 190,000 bought timed tickets at up to $6.50 each. The remaining 25,000 were made up mostly of school groups, which were admitted free.

The figures include tickets for the final three days of the exhibit, which are sold out.

The BMA's previous attendance record for an exhibition was 111,000, set in 1983 for "Faberge: The Forbes Magazine Collection," for which there was no admission charge.

The 190,000 tickets sold represent about 82 percent of the total number of time slots that were available for sale.

"We're thrilled, just absolutely delighted," Mr. Lehman said of the response. "I don't know what it's entirely attributable to. It starts with fabulous works of art."

The BMA will announce within the next few weeks a second exchange project involving its permanent collection for the end of next year, Mr. Lehman said, but he declined to provide further details.

As of yesterday, the museum shop had sold 170,000 Monet items, including 37,000 posters and 22,000 books. Memberships increased by 1,000 since last July, when the BMA began promoting the exhibit, double the increase in the previous year. And 63 percent of visitors rented the Acoustiguide narrated by Meryl Streep, a national record for the companion audio tour.

Meanwhile, the Cone Collection exhibit at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, which closed last Sunday, drew 205,000 visitors.

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