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Visitors lined up to see Impression at the Clark in August. Photo by Arthur Evans.

Clark Art Institute's Summer Attendance Up 77% In 2001; Highest Seasonal Attendance Ever

For Immediate Release

September 09, 2001

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA, (September 7, 2001) – The Clark Art Institute's summer exhibition Impression: Painting Quickly in France, 1860-1890 attracted more than 139,000 visitors to the Clark this summer, the highest 12-week attendance in the Clark's 46-year history.  This figure represents a 77% increase over the summer of 2000 and an 31% increase over its previous best season in 1997.

"We could not be more pleased that this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition was such a success," said Clark director Michael Conforti. "The subject of Impressionism is always a special attraction for the public, but Impression was a unique show. I'm particularly happy that national critics saw this project as a real contribution to our understanding of this important movement in 19th-century painting. We hope that many of the visitors who discovered the Clark and the Berkshires this summer will return in the future."

Impression was organized by the Clark and opened at the National Gallery of London, where critics hailed it as "the show of the year;" it then traveled this winter to the Van Gosh Museum in Amsterdam before coming to the Clark, its only American venue. The New York Times critic Ken Johnson hailed the Clark exhibition for featuring "more than a few works of knee-buckling beauty," adding that "the exhibition's devotion to questions about time in art and art production make it more than another pretty Impressionist show." Willard Spiegelman of The Wall Street Journal called Impression "an eye-opening show," and The Boston Globe's Kate McQuaid labeled it "a smart, succinct exhibition."

The Clark opened the exhibition with a week of free previews for its members and residents of Berkshire County, Southern Vermont, and nearby Columbia and Rennselaer Counties in New York. The 8500 people who took advantage of this offer not only got the first looks at the much-anticipated exhibition, but enjoyed free audio tours, guided tours of the exhibition (available only during the free week), and evening receptions welcoming Clark neighbors and introducing them to the Clark's wide-ranging public and research programs.  Throughout the summer, more than 4600 children took advantage of the Clark's offer of free admission to everyone 18 and under. Free activity cards focusing on the themes of Impression helped children and their families make the most out of their visits.

On August 12, the "Impressions of Paris" Family Day, an outdoor festival of entertainment, activities, and games for all ages, brought more than 7000 people to the Clark's grounds—more than 4000 of whom viewed the exhibition for free. Despite the threat of rain, local residents and tourists alike rode a carousel, played "life-size" chess, shopped in French boutiques, and enjoyed performances by the Berkshire Dance Theatre and the Tanglewood Marionettes. Other public programs this summer included a film series, a symposium, lectures, and the Clark's annual series of highly popular free outdoor band concerts.

While Impression sparked a wide range of programs, the Clark also partnered with MASS MoCA in North Adams to sponsor the exhibition Fluxus Games as well as the ongoing Natalie Jerimijenko installation, Tree Logic.

"We see a tremendous benefit from being near the Clark Art Institute," said Joseph C. Thompson, director of MASS MoCA. "The Clark is a magnet for tourism in northern Berkshire County and there is no doubt that we benefit from the Clark's strong visitation and high visibility. Many of our visitors come through wearing Clark admission tags so we know where they've been. We also recognize and appreciate the Clark's very successful promotion of Impression this summer, which drew increased visitors to the Northern Berkshires."

The show had significant impact on the economy of northern Berkshire County as well, according to Michelle Gietz, owner of Where'd You Get That in Williamstown. "The Impression show has had a major impact on our business this summer, and on the retail and restaurant business up and down Spring Street. It is so good to see so many people coming in wearing the Clark admission buttons, talking about the Impression show and how impressed they are with the Clark and Williamstown. When they have such a nice experience at the Clark, they want to spend more time in town."

In anticipation of Impression, the Clark made numerous preparations to handle the increased visitorship while ensuring a positive experience for those viewing Impression. Admission sales were moved outside the building to free up space in the main entrance courtyard. The museum shop was expanded in size and in range of merchandise, and food service was improved to serve the maximum number of visitors. To spread the numbers of visitors throughout the week and avoid bottlenecks, the Clark issued timed entry tickets to Impression, limiting the number of visitors in the galleries at one time. A number of half-hour time slots sold out completely.

"I'm happy that we could provide this unprecedented influx of visitors with the services they want and need, and with a pleasant experience," said Katie Ziglar, director of external affairs at the Clark. "Spreading out the crowds with timed tickets certainly helped preserve the intimate quality that so many people love about the Clark. We were definitely able to handle the numbers, but there were more than a few days when it was clear that we had reached the capacity of our existing spaces. To present this scale of exhibition in the future, we really do need the expanded facilities called for plans for the enhancement of our campus."

The Clark's master plan, announced earlier this year, envisions construction of a new building on a scale compatible with the Clark's original, neoclassical marble building, as well as with the surrounding landscape and the fabric of Williamstown.  The new structure will be linked to the original building by landscaped terraces and underground passages and will include galleries for special exhibitions along with an orientation center, making it a focal point for visitors.  The plan also calls for renovations and additions to the original building and to the campus's library and administrative building, which was added in 1973. An announcement of the selection of an architect and landscape architect is expected later this month.

The museum shop sold more than 5000 copies of the accompanying catalogue by guest curator Richard R. Brettell. The catalogue will remain available at the Clark following the close of the exhibition. Retail sales at the museum shop had a record 83% increase over last summer.

The Clark was the only North American site for Impression: Painting Quickly in France, 1860-1890, which gathered 77 paintings by Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, and Vincent van Gogh. The show challenged many basic assumptions about Impressionist art and examined works that might truly be called "Impressions"—paintings that appear to be rapid of shifting subjects but were nonetheless considered finished by their makers. The Clark was the final venue for Impression, which ends September 9. The paintings will now return to their respective lenders—thirty-seven different museums and collections in ten countries.

 The Clark's fall exhibitions, Stockbridge Portfolio: Photographs by George Henry Seeley and Goltzius and the Third Dimension, will open on Sunday, October 7. Coming up in 2002 will be Arctic Diary: Paintings and Photographs by William Bradford in February and five exhibitions celebrating the culture of Vienna, including Gustav Klimt: Landscapes, in the summer. The Clark's permanent collection, which includes French Impressionist, Old Master, and 19th century American paintings, is always on view.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free through May.  For more information call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.

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