In 2019, Paris’s Louvre Museum hosted a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit. Within four months, a million visitors flocked to the museum to see the artist’s iconic work. Hosting blockbuster exhibits has been a trend among museums for decades. But lately, museum officials and curators have been reevaluating the excessive costs and planning that go into large-scale shows.
Blockbuster exhibitions often present many works by well-known artists. They draw huge crowds, providing museums with revenue and publicity. Viewers can see bodies of work that most people don’t see in one place in their lifetimes.
But large exhibits require extensive coordination and could cost $1 million or more. Museums pay to have art shipped securely from institutions around the world, and they insure every work on loan to them. Some curators worry that their institutions can no longer afford these costs.
Museum officials and curators are also discussing whether big shows offer visitors new insights. Smaller exhibits have the potential to engage viewers in more substantial ways. Chris Dercon, president of the Grand Palais, a museum complex in Paris, says museums should consider, “Can we tell a story with less?” In light of the Covid-19 virus, officials and patrons also have concerns about viewing art indoors in close proximity with many others.