`Angels' exhibit earns its wings

Art: Walters show big enough to create $100,000 surplus, swell memberships to new record.

January 08, 1999|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

The Walters Art Gallery's latest blockbuster exhibit, "Angels from the Vatican," which closed Sunday, was a success if not a smashing success. Attendance and revenue figures did not meet projections, but the show made the gallery a profit thanks to store sales, and the Walters' membership rolls reached a record.

The exhibit, devoted to the depiction of angels in art from pre-Christian times to the 20th century, drew 57,000 ticketed attendees in its eight-week run, which began Nov. 8. That was 24 percent below the gallery's projection of 75,000. Daily average attendance at the show was 1,187. It ended especially strongly, with a final week (Dec. 26-Jan. 3) attendance of 12,879 people or an average of 2,146 per day.

Ticket and store sale revenues totaled $970,000, a hair below the projected $1 million but enough to outstrip expenses by about $100,000. That's thanks to store sales, which accounted for $550,000, compared with $420,000 for ticket sales. It's the first time in Walters blockbuster history that store sale revenue has topped ticket sale revenue, attributable to the show having a religious subject and running at the Christmas season. The average sale was $9.64, a record, surpassing the average of $7.50 spent at the "Monet" show earlier in 1998. The $100,000 surplus will be used for the gallery's exhibitions program.

During the show, the Walters added 1,300 new members to bring its total to 12,300 households, the highest in its history and 12 percent more than a year ago.

"I'm very pleased," said Walters director Gary Vikan, who pointed out "Angels" sold more tickets than the 1994 "Gauguin and the School of Pont-Aven" show, which also ran eight weeks. But he was particularly pleased with personal reactions to the show. "A lot of people were profoundly touched," he said.

Pub Date: 1/08/99

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