Metropolitan Museum’s McQueen Exhibitions Stimulate $908 Million Economic Impact for New York

by Daniel Haim

Metropolitan Museum’s McQueen, Caro, Serra, and “Rooms with a View” Exhibitions Stimulate $908 Million Economic Impact for New York

The Metropolitan Museum’s concurrent presentation of four acclaimed and widely attended exhibitions in the summer 2011 season—Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty; Anthony Caro on the Roof; Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective; and Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century—generated $908 million in spending by regional, national, and international tourists to New York, according to a visitor survey the Museum released today. Using the industry standard for calculating tax revenue impact, the study found that the direct tax benefit to the City and State from out-of-town visitors to the Museum totaled some $90.8 million. (Results of visitor survey are below.)

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, on view from May 4 through August 7, 2011, drew 661,509 visitors. Attendance for Anthony Caro on the Roof was 306,542 from April 26 through August 26, 2011, when this survey was completed (the exhibition will close on October 30, 2011). Attendance for Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective, which opened April 13, was 183,553 through August 26. Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century, on view from April 25 through July 4, 2011, drew 194,398 visitors.

The survey found that 68% of the visitors traveled from outside the five boroughs of New York. Of these, 20% were from the Tri-State area, 38% were from other states, and 42% were international visitors. Eighty-two percent of travelers reported staying overnight in the City; of these, 72% stayed in a hotel or motel. The median length of stay in the City was 5 days.

These visitors reported spending an average $927 per person ($599 for lodging, dining, sightseeing, entertainment, admission to museums, and local transportation and another $328 for shopping) during their stay in New York.

Fifty-two percent of travelers cited visiting the Met as a key motivating factor in visiting New York. Of travelers, 45% made their first visit to the Museum, and another 23% made their first visit in several years.

The Museum maintains a policy of welcoming visitors to special exhibitions without imposing extra fees. All exhibitions are free with the Museum’s suggested admission.

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum, stated: “As the results of this audience survey suggest, special exhibitions have the power to draw new visitors to the Museum. And after they have attended an exhibition at the Met once, we are confident they will come again. Through our commitment to a robust program of new offerings in the coming years, we hope to continue to attract new audiences to the Museum and thereby to the City and the State.”

Emily K. Rafferty, President of the Metropolitan Museum—who also serves as chair of NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism agency—noted: “Through its roster of highly engaging exhibitions on an ever-changing selection of topics, the Met continues to appeal to a broad cross-section of the population. We are pleased to announce that the Museum remains a premier destination for visitors to New York, and that the revenues it generates for the City and the State show substantial and continued growth.”

The survey of visitors to Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, Anthony Caro on the Roof, Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective, and Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century is the most recent of a series of audience studies undertaken by the Metropolitan to calculate the public economic impact of its special exhibition program. In 2010, the Museum found that the concurrent presentation of Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Doug + Mike Starn on the Roof: Big Bambú, and American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity had generated $784 million in economic impact; in 2007, the concurrent showing of Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde and Americans in Paris, 1860-1900 had generated $377 million in economic impact; in 2004, its El Greco retrospective had generated $345 million in economic impact, and in 2000 reported that visitors to Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids had generated some $307 million.

Using a scale of 1 to 10 to determine how important seeing one or more of the four exhibitions was in their decision to visit New York City, 28% of visitors surveyed in the study gave a rating of 8 or higher. Fifty-two percent gave a rating of 8 or higher to visiting the Metropolitan Museum in general. The economic impact is estimated to be $254 million for just those individuals who indicated that seeing the exhibitions was important in their decision to visit New York City and $472 million for those who wanted to see the Museum in general, yielding tax benefits of $25.4 and $47.2 million respectively.

The landmark exhibition Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty featured some 100 ensembles and 70 accessories that spanned the late British designer’s prolific 19-year career. His iconic designs were always at the vanguard of fashion, due to his unique combination of technical ingenuity with an innovative sensibility. The exhibition was the eighth most popular exhibition ever held at the Metropolitan, and the most visited of the special exhibitions organized by The Costume Institute. In response to public interest, the Museum extended the exhibition by one week and added extra viewing times—including late hours through midnight on the last weekend—so the public could see the exhibition when the Museum was normally closed.