Cartier-Bresson Attendance at MoMA

According to an article by Erica Orden in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (here), it’s been a great year for attendance at the MoMA. Buried in the chart at right (via the WSJ website), you’ll see that the Henri Cartier-Bresson retrospective brought in a total of 412379 visitors. It was the only show of photography to make the short list.

Over four hundred thousand people got me thinking. It was certainly crowded when I visited the show, but what do those big numbers really mean (and how are they really counted)? So I made a few quick calculations.

The exhibit was open from April 11th through June 28th. Given that the museum is closed on Tuesdays, that makes for a total of 68 visitor days. So roughly 6064 people visited the HCB show every day it was open. Given the museum is open on average 7 hours a day (10:30AM to 5:30PM, we’ll gloss over the later hours on Fridays), this means there were roughly 866 visitors to the show every hour. This translates to approximately 14.4 visitors entering every minute, or about one new HCB visitor every 4.2 seconds, all day, every day. Pretty mind boggling stuff. I would have never guessed that there was so much demand to see Cartier-Bresson. Even with many people seeing the show more than once, this is a huge number of people (both locals and tourists I realize) interested in vintage photography.

For pure curiosity, I’d be interested to compare these statistics with those from the recent Frank show at the Met, which was also overrun with visitors. (I can’t think of any other blockbuster photo-only shows in NY in the last year that would have attracted a comparable number.) If anyone knows the total attendance figures for that show, please let me know and we can do an interesting side by side comparison.

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Read more about: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)


  1. Lorraine Anne Davis /

    I believe the MoMA attendence increase was from the block-buster Tim Burton exhibition. It was swamped… constantly – I went twice and one could hardly see the exhibition for the number of visitors ! Lorraine

  2. Anonymous /

    Tim Burton, maybe, but let's not forget the REAL magnet exhibition during the period in question: Marina Abramović spellbinding (and wonderfully marketed) The Artist is Present. There is a possibility that some significant number of people who wandered into H C-B's show after they took in The Artist is Present actual thought they were entering an exhibition of Cartier jewelry. (Unless the MoMA folks actually asked the attendees why they were there and the answer included “to see works by the great 20th Century photographer” I give no credence to the numbers.

  3. Davidikus /

    Very interesting statistics. It would probably make more sense to compare internationally: there are not many photography exhibitions (rather than exhibits, which is something different).
    I suspect HCB attracted more people than Frank, but I might be wrong!

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