Nearly half a million visitors turned out for V&A’s McQueen blockbuster

The “unpredictable, dramatic and spectacular” exhibition drew crowds and celebrities during its extended run in London

A record 493,043 people attended the Alexander McQueen retrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the highest number of visitors for a paying exhibition in the London institution’s history. The tally is 100,000 more than expected, according to the V&A’s deputy director Tim Reeve.

The show cost a reported £3m to produce—the most the museum has ever spent on an exhibition. The V&A declined to give figures for how much the retrospective generated, but full price tickets cost £16.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, which closed on 2 August after an extended 21-week run, covered the visionary designer’s entire career, from his 1992 graduate collection to his final unfinished A/W showcase. McQueen killed himself, aged 40, in 2010.

People from 87 countries came to see the show, as did celebrity musicians, fashion designers, sportsmen and actors including Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Alex James, Stella McCartney, Maria Sharapova, RuPaul and Richard E. Grant.

Demand was so high that the V&A opened overnight for the first time during the final two weekends of the show. Even before it opened, the exhibition’s run was extended by two weeks and a further 50,000 advance tickets were released.

Martin Roth, the director of the V&A, described the retrospective as “one of the most unpredictable, dramatic and spectacular shows we have ever staged”. He added that the response from visitors “has been phenomenal and has exceeded our expectations in so many ways”.

The show first opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2011 where it became the institution’s most-viewed fashion exhibition of all time. It attracted almost 700,000 visitors, with people waiting up to six hours to view it. The museum also extended opening hours until midnight to meet the demand.

The V&A’s Art Deco exhibition of 2003 held the previous record at the London museum with 359,499 tickets sold. Last year’s Wedding Dresses exhibition pulled in 316,090 people, while David Bowie is, which was held in 2013, attracted 311,956 visitors.