The National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC was the most popular art museum in the US last year, with almost 3.3 million visitors. It is the first time since 2008 that the gallery comes out on top in our annual Visitor Figures survey, pushing the Met Fifth Avenue (the Metropolitan Museum of Art's main building) in New York into second place with 3.2 million visits.
While the National Gallery of Art almost doubled its figures from lockdown-hit 2021, it was still down by 20% on its pre-pandemic figures with almost 818,000 fewer visitors compared to 2019. The Met, meanwhile, was down by 1.7 million visitors, a fall of 34%.
The Met is usually the most popular US museum in our survey and its building on Fifth Avenue had around 48,000 fewer visitors that the NGA. Our survey separates the Met’s main building and its Cloisters in Upper Manhattan—which had 196,000 visitors in 2022—to give a more accurate representation of visitors to each venue. If the attendance of the two buildings was combined, it would greater than that of the NGA.
The second most popular museum in the US capital was the National Museum of African American History and Culture with almost 1.1 million visitors, down by 45% on its 2019 numbers, followed by the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which share the same building and had around 954,000 visitors (down 44% on 2019). All the museums were up compared to 2021, when lockdowns severely affected attendance.
The NGA's most popular exhibition last year was Afro-Atlantic Histories, which had almost 145,000 visitors. The show surveyed five centuries of African influence on Western art.
The last time that the National Gallery of Art came out above the Met in our survey was in 2008 with almost 5 million visitors to the Met’s 4.8 million.