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Seattle's Picasso Exhibition Generated a $66 Million Economic Impact in Washington State
The Minotauromachy, 1935 by Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973), etching, 19½ x 27⅛ in. (49.4 x 68.9 cm). Musée National Picasso, Paris. ©2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY.

SEATTLE, WA.- Seattle Art Museum’s (SAM) recent exhibition, Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris, generated an estimated $66 million in economic impact for Washington State, of which $58 million was generated in King County, according to an economic impact study commissioned by SAM. The study, prepared by University of Washington professor William B. Beyers, clearly demonstrates that a major arts event can stimulate the economy in multiple ways. The critically acclaimed exhibition was on view October 8, 2010 -January 17, 2011, and ranks as the most highly attended show in the history of SAM Downtown, attracting 405,000 visitors including nearly 20,000 school children and boosting the museum’s membership to an all time high of more than 48,000 households.

Beyers’ study also reported that visitors to the exhibition spent an estimated $22.7 million in King County on items such as transportation, lodging, food, retail and attractions. Of the $22.7 million in patron spending, the study estimates that $16.1 million is “new money”, money that would not have accrued to the county economy if the Picasso exhibition had not been mounted. “New money” is attributed to the 51 percent of people from outside of King County who attended the exhibition. Of the 51 percent of outside-of-King-County attendees, 18 percent were from outside Washington State and nine percent were from foreign countries.

“Without a doubt, Picasso was a landmark project for the Seattle Art Museum. It is also important to recognize what a tremendous impact an exhibition like this one can have on the City of Seattle, and as an economic driver for the entire region,” says Derrick Cartwright, the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director at SAM. “We can measure that impact, thanks to this study.”

According to the study, the exhibition also supported 936 jobs and $29.1 million in labor income. In addition, state and local tax revenue impacts are estimated to be $3.1 million. SAM partnered with Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, Downtown Seattle Association, Seattle Chamber of Commerce and over 150 other organizations, attractions, hotels, restaurants and retailers to maximize the opportunity of having this monumental show in downtown Seattle.

"The arts are an economic engine that generates spending in the local economy that benefits everyone," said King County Executive Dow Constantine. "This great news from SAM is yet another example of why it is critical that state legislators extend funding, paid by visitors, for cultural organizations across the county that keep the engine running."

Picasso’s far-reaching collaborations and inspiration went well beyond the visual arts in his own lifetime, and his work continues to inspire creative minds in a range of fields – from composers, poets and playwrights to dance troupes, political figures and more. In conjunction with the exhibition, SAM planned a broad array of public programs and collaborations in conjunction with a host of institutions and organizations including the Seattle Symphony, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle Arts and Lectures, University of Washington, Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas, Seattle Public Library and the U.S. Embassy of Spain among others.

“We are thrilled with the success of the Picasso exhibit during the city’s traditional off-season,” said Tom Norwalk, President & CEO of Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We look forward to working with SAM and other cultural institutions to cooperatively market Seattle as a premier destination for cultural travelers.”

SAM commissioned the economic impact study for Picasso following similar studies conducted for previous popular exhibitions:
• Leonardo Lives: Leonardo da Vinci’s Legacy of Art and Science (Oct. 23, 1997 – Jan. 11, 1998), 235,000 visitors
• Impressionism: Paintings Collected by European Museums (June 12 – Aug. 29, 1999), 316,000 visitors
• Van Gogh to Mondrian: Modern Art from the Kroller-Muller Museum (May 29 – Sept. 12, 2004), 262,000 visitors

Impressionism (1999) generated a $24 million economic impact in King County, and its 316,000 visitors spent a total of $15.7 million in their downtown visits. Van Gogh to Mondrian’s 2004 economic impact was $22.4 million in King County, and Leonardo Lives (1997) contributed $15.5 million. These economic impact studies were based only on King County numbers and did not include overall Washington state impacts.

The Picasso exhibition’s 150 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs represented virtually every phase of Pablo Picasso’s legendary career. Drawn from the collection of the Musée National Picasso in Paris, the largest and arguably most important repository of the artist’s work in the world, the unparalleled opportunity to present this work was made possible due to the Musée Picasso’s closure for renovations. The exhibition’s global tour continues to generate critical acclaim and record crowds and is currently on view at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia before heading to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco this summer.

"The enthusiasm for the Picasso exhibit was palpable," said Downtown Seattle Association President Kate Joncas. "The lines of people circling the block to see the exhibit, the likes of which are more typically reserved for high-profile concert tours and sporting events, was a sight to behold.”

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