V&A Dundee sets sights on ‘blockbuster’ shows after bumper year

The V&A in Dundee has experienced much higher numbers of visitors than anticipated.
The V&A in Dundee has experienced much higher numbers of visitors than anticipated.
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Dundee’s V&A museum is set to target the staging of “blockbuster” exhibitions to help build on a first year which generated £75 million for the Scottish economy – more than three times higher than expected.

The waterfront attraction, which cost £80m to build, was worth £20m to the economy of Dundee alone in its first 12 months – double what was predicted for the city before the museum opened in September 2018.

A much higher than anticipated number of visitors for the first 12 months – more than 830,000 compared to the 500,000 that was officially predicted – has been credited with the museum surpassing hopes it would generate £23m for the Scottish economy.

A crucial factor in its early success has been the fact that one in every 10 visitors to the museum was from outwith the UK, including high-spenders on “multi-day” trips to Scotland.

Consultants brought in to analyse the impact of its first 12 months and revised predictions for visitor numbers have suggested its full potential could be “maximised” if it heightens its global appeal by secure more and higher-profile exhibitions in future.

An official report on V&A’ Dundee’s first year said there was “no doubt that it has successfully established itself on the world stage as an important cultural attraction.”

However consultants Ekosgen and Reference Economic Consultants, who were commissioned by V&A to examine the impact of its first year, have warned that its success should not be “understated.”

The V&A is estimated to have supported the equivalent of nearly 700 jobs in Dundee and more than 2,100 across Scotland in its first year. More than 7,000 jobs were said to have been supported during the three and a half-year construction project to create the museum, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

The official report states: “The museum has performed very strongly in its first year, far exceeding visitor numbers originally forecast.

“It has delivered major exhibitions with international appeal, been shortlisted for and won a number of prestigious awards, and achieved international media coverage.

“The museum has attracted new, first-time visitors to the city, many of whom would not have visited Dundee without it.

“Encouragingly, there is evidence that a substantial proportion of people who have visited are likely to return, which is extremely positive and an important indicator of sustainability.

“There appears to be a strong rationale for investing in blockbuster exhibitions to attract higher numbers of visitors. It is worth exploring the advantages of an additional exhibition or exhibitions over and above those already programmed, taking account of the likely costs, available space and the time requirements for changeovers.

“Future investment in V&A Dundee, for example to secure additional high-profile exhibitions, can help to secure sustained impacts that maximise the potential demonstrated through its early success.”

V&A director Philip Long said: “V&A Dundee has a hugely exciting programme ahead year, which will continue to draw visitors to the museum, to Dundee and to Scotland.”