Museum attendance picks up post-circuit breaker

Visitors inside the cabin lounge (left) of the Orient Express on display at Gardens by the Bay. The Georgette Chen exhibition (above) at the National Gallery. Yoda (below), one of the life-size figurines at the Star Wars: Identities exhibition at Art
Visitors inside the cabin lounge of the Orient Express on display at Gardens by the Bay.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Visitors inside the cabin lounge (left) of the Orient Express on display at Gardens by the Bay. The Georgette Chen exhibition (above) at the National Gallery. Yoda (below), one of the life-size figurines at the Star Wars: Identities exhibition at Art
The Georgette Chen exhibition at the National Gallery.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Visitors inside the cabin lounge (left) of the Orient Express on display at Gardens by the Bay. The Georgette Chen exhibition (above) at the National Gallery. Yoda (below), one of the life-size figurines at the Star Wars: Identities exhibition at Art
Yoda, one of the life-size figurines at the Star Wars: Identities exhibition at ArtScience Museum.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Unable to travel out of Singapore, more people are now visiting museums during the coronavirus 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.

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

The Gallery's chief marketing officer, Mr Chris Lee, says that its average monthly visitor numbers have increased by about 40 per cent in the last two months, compared with 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 also 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 with more than 12,000 visitors for July to October.

Similarly, the National Museum's visitorship for November to December more than tripled, clocking more than 84,000 visitors, compared with 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 re-angle 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, which is 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."

Mixed programmes - what the National 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 that 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. For example, 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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2021, with the headline 'Museum attendance picks up post-circuit breaker'. Subscribe