Museum attendance on the rise as Singaporeans look homeward for leisure

The Georgette Chen: At Home In The World exhibition has attracted more than double the number of visitors originally targeted. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Unable to travel out of Singapore, more people are visiting museums during the later stages of the pandemic.

The Georgette Chen: At Home In The World exhibition at the National Gallery Singapore has attracted more than double the number of visitors originally targeted.

Close to 80,000 visits have also been made to the museum since Aug 1 last year to activate the free Gallery Insider membership promotion that is part of its fifth anniversary celebrations.

Mr Chris Lee, the Gallery's chief marketing officer, says that its average monthly visitor numbers have increased by about 40 per cent in the last two months, compared to July to November last year.

Over at the ArtScience Museum, the newly-launched Star Wars: Identities exhibition has seen "particularly strong" presales although the museum declined to reveal exact figures.

The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) and the National Museum of Singapore have similarly reported increasing attendances as Singaporeans look homeward for leisure activities.

The ACM saw a 67 per cent increase in visitorship for November to December last year, with more than 20,000 visitors compared to more than 12,000 visitors for July to October.

Similarly, the National Museum's visitorship for November to December more than tripled, clocking over 84,000 visitors, compared to July to October's figures of over 27,000.

ACM director Kennie Ting says the museum has seen increasing visitorship since the circuit breaker ended. "Accompanying programmes like drop-in craft activities and Super Saturdays also drew more families and children on weekends."

The ACM recently launched two SingapoRediscover voucher packages for visitors which offer discounted admission, free Museum Label merchandise and retail and F&B discounts.

SingapoRediscover vouchers are also applicable to the ArtScience Museum, which has had to reangle its offerings, says director Honor Harger.

"Traditionally, ArtScience Museum's visitorship has been split between locals and tourists. The pandemic has required us to rethink our strategy and position ArtScience Museum as a must-visit destination for Singaporeans," she says.

Hence it launched a new membership club, ArtScience Friends, late last year "to encourage local visitation". Members get multiple visits, free parking and other perks.

Not all exhibitions have fared equally well during this recovery period, however. Ms Lydie Blandeau, founder and producer of Visionairs In Art, which brought in Once Upon A Time On The Orient Express now on at Gardens By The Bay, says: "Due to Covid-19, we have faced many challenges and haven't met our initial objective for exhibition attendance."

Despite this, she adds that the dining experiences have been doing well. "We are fully booked for high tea till April. We have a special Valentine's dinner menu for Feb 12 to 14 that has very limited tables left."

The Once Upon A Time On The Orient Express exhibition. PHOTO: ST FILE

Mixed programmes - what the Gallery's Mr Lee calls "phygital" options - will continue to be part of all the museum's offerings even as live programmes, such as docent tours, are being cautiously reintroduced.

Despite the increase, museum visitorship has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.
In 2019, for example, the Gallery had more than 1.8 million visitors, the National Museum close to 1.1 million and ACM more than 670,000, according to the most recent Singapore Cultural Statistics report.

The museums The Straits Times spoke to all emphasise stringent cleaning protocols and safe management measures at their spaces.

In the meantime, they are capitalising on offering an escape for Singaporeans who cannot travel. Mr Ting wants to invite #TravelAsiaAtACM "through stories of our world-class collection of Asian art".

Ms Blandeau says: "Our exhibition and the 'travel back in time' theme is a great alternative experience for many people who would usually travel overseas."

Members of the public view an exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

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