Australia / Analyst Insights
Exhibiting growth: museums and galleries attract new audiences

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by Daisy Feller
Jan 16 2020

Art galleries and museums have performed well over the past five years. Increasing public expenditure on recreation and culture has driven revenue growth for these businesses over the period, with revenue for the Museums and Art Galleries industry in Australia expected to increase at an annualised 1.0% over the five years through 2019-20, to reach $1.8 billion.

Rising domestic and international Tourism in Australia over the past five years has boosted the performance of these businesses. The depreciation of the Australian dollar over the period has made it cheaper for international tourists to travel to Australia while also making domestic holidays comparatively more affordable for Australians. Museums and galleries have appealed to tourists by offering exhibitions of internationally-known works and unique interactive experiences.

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) has been particularly effective at leveraging popular exhibitions, with revenue expected to increase at an annualised 6.4% over the five years through 2019-20, to $138.8 million. Some of the NGV’s notable exhibitions over the past five years include:

  • Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei (2015-16)
  • Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines (2019-20)
  • KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness (2019-20)

Warhol and Weiwei are two of the most popular artists in recent history, allowing this exhibit to attract a wide audience. This was achieved by contrasting Weiwei’s controversial position in the contemporary art landscape with Warhol’s earlier efforts to redefine artistic expression.

More recently, the NGV leveraged American artists Haring and Basquiat to appeal to audiences interested in street art. These artists were defining figures in New York’s art and hip hop community in the 1980s, enabling this exhibit to appeal to fans of both contemporary visual arts and music culture. The NGV has also benefitted from exhibiting popular art by selling merchandise. For example, the KAWS exhibition features the artist’s iconic character imagery, which the gallery sells in the forms of tote bags, keychains and pins.

Museums and galleries have also gained a wider audience by offering interactive exhibitions. For example, the Western Australian Museum in Perth has incorporated online exhibitions to attract visitors who are unable to physically visit the museum. Some museums and galleries have also captured a share of the nightlife market by offering adults-only events with alcohol service, such as Nocturnal at Melbourne Museum, Plantetarium Nights at Scienceworks and NGV Friday Nights. 

Revenue for the Art Galleries and Museums industry is anticipated to increase at an annualised 2.5% over the five years through 2024-25, to reach $2.1 billion, largely driven by merchandise and cafe sales, and high ticket prices for international exhibitions. Forecast rises in both domestic and international tourism are anticipated to continue driving demand for these establishments.

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