WHEN Bendigo Art Gallery’s Grace Kelly: Style Icon closed on Sunday night, the total number of visitors who saw the exhibition reached over 152,500 – doubling the previous record set by the Gallery.
Gallery director Karen Quinlan said the figure is outstanding when compared with the Victoria & Albert Museum, London’s attendances of 210,000 for the same exhibition.
"The exhibition has been an unprecedented success and we have been very heartened by the interest and strong word-of-mouth that has generated these outstanding attendances," she said.
"This has certainly provided extra fuel to our plans and aspirations for the future."The exhibition also set a new record for the number of people who travelled with V/Line to see a major exhibition.
It resulted in up to 22,500 people travelling to see the exhibition, a 48 per cent increase on the number who travelled to see the 2011 White Wedding Dress.
Up to the end of May 18,839 people had travelled with V/Line see the exhibition.
V/Line Marketing and Stakeholder Relations general manager Paul Matthews said it was expected the final figure would be up to 22,500 after patronage figures are collated for the final few weeks of the exhibition.
“We are rapt with the result and it demonstrates the strong partnership we have in place with the Bendigo Art Gallery and Bendigo Tourism to bring people to the city,” he said.
“Our trains were so busy we had three daily peaks – the morning, afternoon and Grace Kelly peak. Weekend travellers to Bendigo were mostly visitors from Melbourne visiting to see the exhibition.
“A lot of people complimented not only the exhibition, but also the tourism volunteers who greeted travellers and tourists at Bendigo Station when our trains arrived.
“We know a lot of those visitors were from Melbourne and have attended previous exhibitions the gallery has hosted including the White Wedding Dress and The Golden Age of Couture.
“Having a warm and welcoming presence not only at the station, but at the gallery, cafés, restaurants and accommodation helps ensure visitors will return in the future.”
Bendigo Art Gallery offered a 20% discount on adult entry to the exhibition for travellers who presented their V/Line ticket at the box office.
The exhibition had already visited Monaco, Rome, New York and London before its exclusive visit to Bendigo.
City of Greater Bendigo Tourism executive manager Kathryn Mackenzie said the success of the exhibition had cemented the region as the Victorian regional capital for arts and culture.
“The exhibition has demonstrated not only will people travel to high quality events and exhibitions, they will travel by train where there is a fast and reliable service,” she said.
“Many of our sessions were sold out weeks in advance and local restaurateurs and accommodation providers reported increases in their takings.
“We will look forward to partnering with V/Line in the future for our next major exhibition."
The question that many are keen to have an answer to is ‘what’s next’?
"I am pleased to say we are working on some very exciting exhibitions and look forward to sharing the details in the coming months," Ms Quinlan said.
"Bendigo Art Gallery has staged several successful international exhibitions; with the results providing extra fuel and inspiration to our ambitions.
"The trajectory we have been on for several years will continue, we are sure, with the upcoming building works helping us to continue in our planned evolution and realise our greater vision. Grace Kelly is not a one-off event."
Work on the gallery’s $8.4 million redevelopment has begun and will be completed in late 2013.
The extension will provide extra storage and exhibition space to assist the Gallery in continuing its transformation and build on its successes even further.
During the building works the gallery will continue to operate and exhibit, although ticketed international exhibitions of the scale of Grace Kelly will be programmed when the new spaces are relaunched.