NY's Met Museum draws 5 million visitors amid recession

Pablo Picasso's 1903 oil painting "The Blind Man's Meal" is seen during a media preview of 300 works by Picasso at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York April 19, 2010. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than 5 million people visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the past year despite the global economic downturn, giving the New York art institution its highest annual attendance since 2001.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 5.24 million people visited the museum’s main Fifth Avenue location and its Cloisters museum and gardens in upper Manhattan, the museum said, ranking among the highest in its 130-year history.

In the previous fiscal year, there were 4.7 million visitors.

The high number of visitors for the latest fiscal year “sends a signal about the enduring importance of culture and cultural institutions to the public, especially during this period of recession,” museum director Thomas Campbell said in a statement.

One of the most heavily attended shows of the past year was Vermeer’s Masterpiece “The Milkmaid,” which ran from September 10 to November 29 and brought in 329,446 visitors. Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which opened April 27 and closes August 15, had brought in 380,574 visitors as of June 30.

The museum’s “recommended” admission price is $20 for adults. The museum said the number of memberships, which range in cost from $60 to $20,000, rose to a record 138,000. In addition, school group visitors increased by 50 percent from the previous year period to more than 195,000.

Reporting by Caroline Humer, editing by Michelle Nichols and Bill Trott