More people visited our galleries during 2017 that in any previous year in our history, new figures reveal.
During 2017, 65,590 a record visits were made to see our collections and exhibitions – up 19% on 2017’s figure of 55,137 visits. The figure is also a 5% increase our previous record – set during our 80th anniversary year in 2013, when 59,490 visitors enjoyed our galleries.
Staff attribute the increasing popularity to a variety of factors that have attracted first-timers and returners. High-profile loans of iconic artworks put the Barber on the map as a must-see Birmingham destination in 2017. Visiting masterpieces including Francis Bacon’s unsettling Two Figures in a Room, from the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, and Monet’s iconic Water Lily Pond, from the Art Institute of Chicago. A host of temporary loan exhibitions further bolstered a growing awareness of the Barber’s nationally important permanent collections.
Last year’s exciting programme of related events was informed by a research-based understanding of the Barber’s unique audience profile, while growing awareness of our activities through the launch of the new supporters’ society – the Barber Association – has also contributed to the swelling visitor numbers.
Director Nicola Kalinsky said: ‘To have welcomed 65,000 visitors is fantastic – obviously that means the pressure’s now on to beat these figures this year. But we have some really strong exhibitions planned for 2018 – as well as some spectacular interventions popping up in the main galleries over the course of the year.’
The gallery’s spring exhibition, The Rhythm of Light: Scottish Colourists from the Fleming Collection, launches on Friday 16 February. Featuring gloriously colourful early 20th-century landscapes and still-life paintings, it will be the first time work by this quartet of Scottish artists – SJ Peploe, FCB Cadell, JD Ferguson and Leslie Hunter – has been displayed together in the West Midlands.
In April, The Last Roman: Peasant to Emperor opens in our Coin Gallery and explores the reign of Justinian II – who rose from peasant beginnings to become the last Emperor of the Romans.
This is followed in June by a prestigious collaboration with Royal Collection Trust, which will feature Old Master drawings from HM the Queen’s collection at Windsor Castle.
And in in the autumn, delightful, decorative and distinctive works by the French post-Impressionist painter Edward Vuillard are the focus of the exhibition Maman: Vuillard and Madame Vuillard, with loans from Britain and Europe that explore the painter’s career-long fascination with painting his mother.