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National Gallery releases 2023 visitor numbers ahead of bicentenary celebrations

More than three million people visited the National Gallery in London last year, according to new figures.

The art museum in Trafalgar Square saw a 14% increase on visitor numbers compared with 2022, it said.

An additional 881,866 visits were made to the gallery’s exhibition tour of Asia and 154,202 visits to National Gallery displays and exhibitions on tour across the UK.

National Gallery stock
A view of the main entrance of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, which was founded in 1824 (John Stillwell/PA)

A total of 4,216,749 visits were made in person to visit National Gallery paintings across the world, the museum said.

The figures have been published as the gallery marks its bicentenary with a year-long festival of “art, creativity and imagination”, following its foundation on May 10 1824.

The celebrations will include 12 exhibitions opening in 12 museums and galleries across 12 regions of the four UK nations, as well as a new major exhibition titled Van Gogh: Poets And Lovers from September 14 until January 19.

The Vincent Van Gogh exhibition will feature the artist’s most important works alongside paintings from private collections never seen in public before. It marks 100 years since the gallery acquired his Chair and Sunflowers paintings.

The EY Exhibition: Van Gogh and Britain
‘Sunflowers’ (1888) by Vincent van Gogh (Victoria Jones/PA)

Gabriele Finaldi, director of the National Gallery in London, said: “The National Gallery continues to build on its founding principles of bringing people and great art together.

“We strongly feel that in 2024 and beyond we cannot demand that people come to the art, art must also go to them.”

She continued: “Through our collection, our exhibitions in London, throughout the UK as well as the hugely popular exhibition tour in Asia – a large number of people have engaged with the gallery.

“We look forward to sharing the National Gallery with more and more people through our exciting bicentenary programme.”

In total, 3,096,508 visits were made to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square last year, an increase from the 2,727,119 visits made in 2022.

The gallery’s free Summer On The Square outdoor festival of creativity attracted 25,932 visits, while 32,040 people were engaged with the annual Articulation Prize for those aged between 16 and 19.

It also attracted a total of 60,115,760 video views from content including online exhibitions, talks and courses.

The 2023 figures come months after Just Stop Oil protesters allegedly used orange hammers to smash the glass protecting a mid-17th century painting in the museum known as Rokeby Venus – or The Toilet of Venus.

The painting, which depicts a nude goddess Venus gazing into a mirror held by Cupid, was previously slashed by suffragette Mary Richardson in 1914 – who was protesting against the arrest of activist Emmeline Pankhurst.