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Historic number of visitors since opening of Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
Online interest in the museum is rising exponentially. Traffic to the museum website increased by 40%, to more than 3.2 million visitors. Photo: Jan Kees Steenman.

AMSTERDAM.- The Van Gogh Museum expects to end 2016 with a record number of nearly 2.1 million visitors, achieving growth of 8% compared to last year. Passing the two million visitor threshold is a historic milestone since the museum opened in 1973. The majority of visitors to the museum were from the Netherlands, followed by the US, Italy, France and Great Britain. More than 46,000 pupils visited the museum with a school group. Visitor ratings of the museum remain notably high.

‘This a fantastic compliment’, says Axel Rüger, Director of the Van Gogh Museum. ‘As the year progressed, we witnessed interest in our museum rise considerably. We have worked exceedingly hard to continue to meet our visitors’ expectations. It is not only the highest number of annual visitors ever; more visitors rated their visit as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ than last year – even in the busy summer months. That qualitative boost is what matters the most to us’.

Extensive online fan base
Online interest in the museum is rising exponentially. Traffic to the museum website increased by 40%, to more than 3.2 million visitors. The website was most popular on 4 February (the launch of the online print collection), 30 March (Van Gogh’s birthday) and 30 September (when the two stolen Van Gogh paintings were recovered in Italy).

Vincent van Gogh and the museum are equally hot topics on social media channels. In 2016, Van Gogh united 8.2 million fans on the various social media channels: 1,505,000 fans on Facebook, 543,000 followers on Twitter, 252,000 on Instagram and 5,622,000 op Google+. The online fan base expanded by 30% compared to 2015, rising from 6.3 million to 8.2 million followers.

More (and more satisfied) visitors
Visitors to the museum are from in excess of 125 different countries. South Korea is a striking newcomer to the list. A Korean version of the multimedia guide was added in November of this year, facilitated by the financial support from museum sponsor Hyundai.

Public appreciation of the museum is high, also in the busy months of July and August. The large majority of all visitors rated their visit as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’, and indicated that they ‘were given food for thought’ and ‘were inspired’.

New entrance, improved distribution
Despite the large numbers of visitors to the museum, it was not seen as being busy. This is due to several factors:

1. The additional space created when the new Entrance Hall opened late last year means that the reception of visitors is more efficient, and the museum is able to make optimal use of the entire building.

2. Time-slotted admission tickets have improved visitor distribution throughout the day. The peaks and lows of visitor flows are less pronounced and visitors are distributed more evenly throughout the entire day. A new development this year is that 1 in 4 visitors purchased their ticket online in advance.

3. Extended opening hours on Fridays (and in the summer months, also on Saturdays) allow the museum to more effectively deal with the busy summer period.

4. The growing popularity of the new multimedia guide, which interactively guides visitors through the museum.

2016: The year of the ear, Armin van Buuren and the recovery of two works by Van Gogh
With a varied programme of exhibitions, the museum focused on the life and work of Vincent van Gogh. Easy Virtue: Prostitution in French Art, 1850-1910 opened in spring, an exhibition exploring the Paris of Van Gogh and his fellow artists. Coinciding with the exhibition, the museum designed three pop-up period rooms at a location previously used by sex workers in the city’s Red Light District. The summer exhibition, On the Verge of Insanity: Van Gogh and His Illness, illuminated the theme of Van Gogh’s condition. The unique discovery of a doctor’s letter containing information about the cut-off ear aroused great interest, as did the revolver with which Van Gogh fatally wounded himself. The autumn exhibition, Daubigny, Monet, Van Gogh: Impressions of Landscape (on display until 29 January 2017) revealed the story of ‘forgotten’ French artist Charles-François Daubigny. Alongside being an enormous innovative force, he was primarily also a major source of inspiration for Vincent van Gogh.

In late September, the international press reported a major discovery: two of Van Gogh’s works that had been stolen 14 years previously had been recovered in Naples. The works appear to have spent many years in the possession of members of the Italian mafia. Expert examination conducted in Italy indicates that the two works are from the museum collection: View of the Sea at Scheveningen (1882) and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884-85). It is as yet unknown when the paintings will be returned to the museum.

The launch of the Embrace Vincent multimedia guide and the collaboration with DJ Armin van Buuren also attracted widespread attention. Van Buuren selected eleven of his favourite Van Gogh paintings, provided personal commentary and accompanied the works with music from his album Club Embrace. The special multimedia tour (available until 31 December 2016) was spectacularly launched during the Amsterdam Dance Event, with a unique performance by the world-famous DJ in the museum’s glass Entrance Hall.

Director Axel Rüger: ‘Our visitors are from a wide range of countries and backgrounds. It is therefore vital that year after year, there is a varied programme and that we devise and organise appealing, high-quality activities. We hold knowledge days for researchers and specialists. During Vincent on Friday, we offer a dynamic, contemporary programme featuring up-and-coming artists and performers. This year, our educational programme for schools attracted more than 46,000 pupils. We offer special activities tailored to our disabled visitors, elderly visitors, families with children and audiovisually impaired visitors. Van Gogh belongs to everyone and we see it as our core mission, year upon year, to ensure that the museum remains appealing and accessible to all of our visitors, thereby giving everyone the opportunity to discover our collection’.

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