No, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “China: Through the Looking Glass” didn’t generate lines that stretched down Fifth Avenue the way that the museum’s 2011 Alexander McQueen retrospective did, but the Costume Institute show did end up becoming a surprise hit. The Met announced this week that “China: Through the Looking Glass” was seen by 815,992 people, making it the museum’s fifth most visited show of all time. (By comparison, the McQueen show is the ninth most visited exhibition in the museum’s history.)
A look at the other shows in the museum’s top ten most visited exhibitions reveals that Met visitors love three things: modernism, fashion, and traveling masterpieces. The top three most visited shows are all exhibitions that fall into the last category, with Tutankhamen’s treasures, the Mona Lisa, and works from the Vatican’s collection bringing in enormous crowds in a time before blockbuster shows. Modernism is also well-represented—shows about Pablo Picasso, painters in Paris at the start of the 20th century, and Impressionism all make the cut as well. The Costume Institute is responsible for two shows in the top ten.
Only one show in the top ten had contemporary art in it, which isn’t surprising for an institution that has just recently begun to seriously dip its feet into postmodern art. That show, rather unsurprisingly, is the Jeff Koons exhibition on the Met’s roof, which was seen by more than half a million people. As the museum begins to ready the Whitney’s former headquarters as a contemporary-art annex, more Met visitors will likely see shows about today’s art.
Images from the exhibitions follow below: