Turner Prize visitor figures at Baltic put London to shame

THE Turner Prize exhibition finally closed its doors last night with visitor numbers having smashed expectations.

Queues of art enthusiasts outside the Baltic yesterday
Queues of art enthusiasts outside the Baltic yesterday

THE Turner Prize exhibition finally closed its doors last night with visitor numbers having smashed expectations.

The display of the 2011 entries for the world’s most controversial art prize at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art left the region last night with the unofficial total for people coming to see it put at 145,000. That compares to the 70,000 to 100,000 people who see the prize on average each year at its traditional home in London.

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Last night the Gateshead exhibition was hailed the most successful event in the Baltic’s history by delighted bosses.

The attraction’s hosting of the four entries for last year’s prize marked only the second time since the event began in 1984 that they have been on show outside the capital.

Tate Liverpool played host in 2007 – a year which failed to hit the attendance figures the Baltic has just produced.

Gateshead’s display opened on October 21 with unprecedented 45-minute queues lining up outside the attraction.

In the first five days alone more than 25,000 visitors had passed through as school half-term holidays led to bumper crowds.

Tourism bosses said they expected the region to benefit from millions of pounds worth of extra income on the back of the exhibition.

Bumper visitor figures also helped spark a boom in trade along Newcastle and Gateshead Quayside, where bars and hotels reported a boost in takings.

Business leaders believed the region could expect to attract millions more pounds as visitors to the prize return in future. Queues returned to the Baltic between Christmas and New Year.

On Saturday, visitor numbers stood at around 140,000 with bosses saying they hoped to hit the 150,000 mark.

As the exhibition closed at 6pm yesterday, bosses confirmed the unofficial figure was around 145,000.

That is almost double the average attendance at a Baltic exhibition of 80,000 and approaching half its annual visitor number of 400,000.

Asked whether the event had been a success, duty manager Lee Stokoe said: “Totally. I think the number I have given you reflects that.”

On whether it had been the Baltic’s most successful display, he added: “It is hard to say because we had Anthony Gormley, a display by the former prize winner and sculptor of the Angel of the North, and that was during the summer time and summer time is the busier time in general.

“Comparatively for a show that is on in the middle of winter, yes it probably is.”

Mr Stokoe said the exhibition had been generally well received by visitors.

He added that the exhibits will be returned to the artists and that it will be a matter for them to decide where they go next.

The winner of the prize was announced on December 5, with 44-year-old Martin Boyce being chosen ahead of Karla Black, Hilary Lloyd and George Shaw.

The £25,000 prize is awarded each year to a British artist under 50 for an outstanding exhibition in the previous year.

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