Hirshhorn Surprises Record 1 Millionth Visitor of 2017

Highest Attendance in 30 Years Makes Hirshhorn One of the Top-Three Most Visited Modern Art Museums in the US
October 31, 2017
News Release

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View of Hirshhorn exterior looking up

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden welcomed its 1 millionth visitor of the year Tuesday, Oct. 31—a major milestone marking its highest annual attendance in nearly 30 years and doubling its visitation from just three years ago. The record also makes the museum one of the top-three most visited modern art museums in the U.S.—spots normally filled by New York institutions—thanks to a year of groundbreaking exhibitions and programs with leading international artists, including Ai Weiwei, Yayoi Kusama, Yoko Ono, Ragnar Kjartansson and Mark Bradford.

To celebrate, the museum is throwing a community party in the form of “Million Lego Mornings” every Saturday in December, 10 a.m. to noon. These special days of inspiration and play invite kids of all ages to use innovative digital tools to make their own Lego artwork, inspired by the 1.2 million Legos used to create Ai’s massive “Trace” installation, which spans the entire second-floor galleries. Lego fans can join a massive 3-D portrait challenge, jump in a photo booth and Lego-ize themselves, and check out Lego kits to make art in the galleries.

The Hirshhorn’s lucky millionth visitor was surprised with a yearlong museum membership and a gift bag stocked with one-of-a-kind artist crafts. Washington-favorite fantasy pastry shop Buttercream Bakeshop contributed a nearly 2-foot-tall custom Hirshhorn-shaped cake for the festivities.

“This remarkable achievement underscores the Hirshhorn’s well-earned reputation for innovative programming and world-class exhibitions from visionary artists,” said Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton. “Melissa and the entire Hirshhorn team have done incredible work to make the museum an essential destination for veteran modern-art lovers and newcomers alike.”

“We are delighted that so many visitors from the region and around the world have experienced and participated in our exhibitions, artist talks, teen workshops and family days so far this year,” said Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu. “The Hirshhorn is committed to putting the museum visitor at the center of our program, and we continue to be inspired by the enthusiastic response and support from our community.”

Over the past year, the Hirshhorn has embarked on a series of ambitious initiatives that focus on transforming the visitor experience—welcoming 120 new visitor attendants to greet and guide visitors, opening its first pop-up coffee shop with locally owned Dolcezza Coffee & Gelato, launching its first-ever audio guide.

Among those million visitors, the museum welcomed: 

  • 3,500 ARTLAB+ teens in its digital arts studio for free instruction in cutting-edge technologies
  • 2,000 STORYTIME kids ages birth to 6, for movement and activities crucial for early childhood development
  • 50,000 who added handwritten notes added to Ono’s “My Mommy is Beautiful,” a participatory artwork that invited visitors to leave memories of their mother
  • 13,000 visitors for school and community tours, including special American Sign Language tours and “touch tours” for the visually impaired
  • Nearly 100 with mobility constraints who were able to use virtual-reality (VR) headsets to experience VR versions of Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, part of Hirshhorn’s commitment to radical accessibility

About the Hirshhorn

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. With nearly 12,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, mixed-media installations, works on paper and new media works, its holdings encompass one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs on the art of our time—free to all, 364 days a year. For more information, visit hirshhorn.si.edu.

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Allison Peck

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