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Sure We're Arty. But Only 2 of Our Museums Are Among the Most Attended in the World

Were you one of the many visitors to the Getty Center in 2010? (Photo by © Albert's Canon Photography | L.A.° via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Los Angeles isn't exactly lacking when it comes to premiere art venues, a thriving gallery scene, and arts-oriented communities. But according to a recent Top 100 list published by Art Newspaper, only two our museums rank among those around the globe for attendance.

The Los Angeles Times takes a look at the ranking, and finds that the Getty is at 33rd, with 1,205,685 visitors in 2010, while the Los Angeles County Museum of Art placed 53rd, with just 914,356 visitors last year.

The top ten is your basic who's who of the big museum scene, with the Louvre in Paris not surprisingly in the top slot (8.5 million people gaped at some serious art treasures there in 2010), and New York's MOMA and Metropolitan well represented, as well as the British Museum and the National Gallery in London, and Washington DC's National Gallery of Art, too.

Is it really all that surprising, though, that older cities, like New York, Chicago, and DC have more of a presence on the list? Is it surprising that more people went to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts last year than LACMA?

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In looking at art by categories, and specific shows and how they ranked, L.A. has zero presence in most, except Medieval, where three of the seven top exhibits were mounted at the Getty and illustrate that illuminated manuscripts is the ongoing bread-and-butter of the genre. But sorry, Medieval is kind of the loser in the current museum scene, says Art Newspaper: "The Middle Ages continues to wane in popularity; for the second year in a row the category has failed to register ten shows." Still: We rule!

The LAT attributes the low attendance and the somewhat poor showing for LA in the international scene because so often tourism is what brings people into museums, and in LA, museums aren't necessarily prime tourist attractions. Though many of us probably take our visiting guests on the tram up the hill to see the Getty and show off the panoramic view, we may not be taking our visitors to MOCA. However, if you look at MOCA's numbers, the facility is doing well, and growing in attendance, mostly thanks to locals: "60% of its visitors [were] from the L.A. area [and] attendance last year totaled 236,104, up by nearly 90,000 over the previous year."

Things look promising, however, in 2011 for LACMA, who expect to break the 1 million-mark for attendance this year. A big upcoming draw is the Tim Burton show, which drew "an average of 5,200 visitors daily," on its NYC stop.

What we can't help is our sprawl, and an Art Newspaper rep explains to the LAT why art tourism is a hard sell in the City of Angels: "In New York you can visit three museums in a day, maybe more. In L.A., you would never try to do LACMA, the Getty and MOCA in the same day."