December 6, 2012

Portland museum sets attendance record with Homer show

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — More than 22,000 people attended the Winslow Homer exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art last month, marking a new high for November attendance.

click image to enlarge

Anna Schember, right, collects a ticket at the Winslow Homer exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art. The museum hopes the exhibit draws 75,000 attendees before it closes.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

Through Nov. 30, 52,000 people have seen the exhibition since it opened Sept. 17. The museum hopes to draw 23,000 people to the show in December, which would bring overall attendance for the exhibition to 75,000, said museum director Mark Bessire. If the museum meets that goal, "Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine" will be the most successful fall show on record, he said.

"This show has been so successful on so many fronts -- attendance, membership, store and cafe sales, fundraising, and most importantly, it has raised our national exposure and reputation in the art world and drawn attention to Homer and to this great state of Maine," Bessire said.

Because of the success of the show, the museum has extended its hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays, Dec. 13 through Dec. 30. Tickets cost $17 for adults, and reservations are recommended. Admission tickets are available through the run of the show, the museum said.

"Weatherbeaten" includes 38 paintings, many of which are considered among Homer's best and most significant marine works. He made all of them at his studio at Prouts Neck in Scarborough between 1883, when he moved to Maine, and his death in the studio in 1910.

Many of the works in this exhibition rarely leave their home institutions, including "Fox Hunt," which is on loan from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. It has not returned to Maine since it was painted in 1893.

The previous November attendance record was set in 2001 with 13,820 visitors. That fall, the museum showcased work by popular Maine artists Marguerite and William Zorach and Dahlov Ipcar.

August 1997 was the most-attended month in museum history with 25,330 visitors to exhibitions of work by Andrew Wyeth and Alex Katz.

The success of the Homer exhibition can be measured other ways, too. Vanessa Nesvig, coordinator of interpretation and programs, said more than 6,000 people have used the museum's cell phone tour. The hosting company told Nesvig "they had to come up and see the show because the usage we have been getting is usually only found with museums that have over 1 million visitors a year."

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

bkeyes@pressherald.com

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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