While we remain closed, sometimes it's hard to remember how it was when the Gallery was open. However, this time one year ago, we were showing Ron Mueck – and we had thousands, literally thousands, of visitors.
On 13 January last year, Ron Mueck had just 10 more days to run. Many had left it to the end to see the show (or to see it one last time), and – while some bought tickets online to avoid the queue – others didn't:
We had 35,000 visitors in those final 10 days of the show – 9,900 of whom came during the last weekend alone! The Gallery stayed open until midnight on Saturday 22 January with one of our volunteer guides, Barry Allom, taking his last tour at 11.30pm (and in the process clocking up the most tours in one day for the CAG Book of Records).
I think it's worth recalling a couple of surprise aspects of the visitor data we collected during this show: one in 5 of the 135,140 visitors was a Christchurch resident – an extraordinary statistic, and I suspect an unequalled world record (fit for Guinness). And they stayed and talked with each other in a way unlike before. Beyond the economic benefits which flowed from visitors from other parts of New Zealand, it demonstrates the cultural impact the exhibition, and the Gallery, had on our city as a whole.
During the run of Ron Mueck, it's also intriguing to note that of the total visitors to the Gallery, 43% went to the exhibition, but 57% went straight upstairs to see the collection and enjoy our other offerings. Success breeds success.
So as we contemplate the coming year, and our current status as a 'Gallery without walls', it's nice to remember just how good it can get, and just how much the Gallery means to the city. Equally, it'll be great to start counting visitor numbers again instead of website clicks.