Chicago museums set records in attendance for 2017, led by MCA

Takashi Murakami exhibit

Last year, Chicago’s attendance records shot up – most notably the MCA which hosted the most-popular-ever Takashi Murakami exhibit, leading with a 49 percent increase over 2016.

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According to the Chicago Tribune, other big attendance wins were the Adler Planetarium at 10 percent, National Museum of Mexican Art at 16 percent as well as the Field Museum at 9 percent.

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And many other institutions also reported their highest attendance ever. But who the lost out majorly?According to the news outlet, it was The Art Institute, who followed a year with a major Van Gogh exhibition – suffering a 9 percent drop, to 1.62 million visitors.

In total according to the Tribune, the Museums in the Parks and affiliates welcomed 16.33 million visitors in 2017 which is a 2.7 percent boost over 2016’s 15.90 million figure. The Lincoln Park Zoo again reported the highest attendance overall for their admission, which is free,
at 3.77 million visitors, with its highest ever attendance.

Most museums have 52 free days for Illinois residents per year with the month of February is the most packed with free days, according to the news outlet. The Art Insitute, as well as the MCA, made it easier for teens to get in without paying. As a result, The Art Institute said its initiative resulted in a more than quadrupling of teenage attendance.

The Shedd Aquarium’s big attendance was due to its admission policies that streamlined pricing which helped reduce confusion and shortened wait times. The new policies took effect in July, according to the Tribune, and Shedd officials report that visitors in the first two months saw a 45 percent decrease in wait times to get in and overall, Shedd’s attendance was up almost 3 percent, to 1.98 million visitors.

According to a spokeswoman, Field Museum’s 9.1 percent growth, to 1.80 million visitors was made possible by a rush of visitors for the ending of its exhibit on the Terracotta Warriors Chinese sculptures, by the temporary “Jurassic World” exhibition and by its highest February attendance in history.

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In its 125th anniversary year, they are remodeling its central Stanley Field Hall with changes including Sue the T. rex moving to a bespoke exhibit hall upstairs (slated to be ready next year) and a replica skeleton of Patagotitan mayorum, the largest dinosaur yet discovered, mounted in the main hall according to the news outlet.

The MCA’s 371,000 visitors were the most ever, according to the Tribune and came in the 50th anniversary year of the institution just east of Michigan Avenue.

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