The Fries Museum’s exhibition Escher’s Journey attracted 256,450 visitors, making it the most-popular exhibition ever in the Fries Museum’s history; the museum had initially anticipated 120,000 visitors. With this success, Escher far surpasses former recorder holder Alma-Tadema, who attracted 158,000 visitors over four months in 2016-2017. Due to the unprecedented popularity of Escher’s Journey, the Fries Museum was sold out almost daily for six months. Visitors and (inter)national media were extremely enthusiastic about the quality of the exhibition.
From 28 April to 28 October, the Fries Museum brought M.C. Escher back to his hometown of Leeuwarden. Escher’s Journey followed his development from graphic talent to world-famous artist. With more than 80 original prints, around 20 drawings and various photographs and objects, visitors retraced the footsteps of the travel-mad graphic artist, who found inspiration for his best-known works in Italy and Spain. XPEX Amsterdam’s innovative exhibition design enhanced the experience of Escher’s life and work.
Museum director Kris Callens looks back with satisfaction: ‘With Escher’s Journey the Fries Museum is proud to have been the heart of Leeuwarden-Fryslân European Capital of Culture 2018 for six months. We have succeeded in shining new light on these world-famous works with a well-constructed story and with exceptionally carefully lit original prints. With its 3D street art, Escher in the grain and activities for children and the elderly,Planet Escher was a project by and for everyone in the city, in the region and on social media. With Phantom Limb - Art Beyond Escher, the exhibition was given an inspiring contemporary extension. This year has given us the energy to continue to create high-quality international exhibitions with a low threshold that are rooted in our Frisian heritage.
The exhibition was popular from the start. The museum was sold out almost every day and had to extend its opening hours several times to cope with the demand. Public research shows that visitors rated the exhibition with an average of 8.4. 96% of the visitors came to the museum especially for the Escher exhibition. Of these, 22% came from Friesland, 10% from abroad and 68% from the rest of the Netherlands. For just over half of the visitors, this was their first visit to the Fries Museum. The museum was also well visited online. In the exhibition period, the website was viewed 700,000 times.
In addition, the audio tour and interactive elements turned out to be a great success. The audio tour, narrated in Dutch by top actor Pierre Bokma and in English by director Peter Greenaway, was heard by 71,000 visitors. In the Escher Studio, a reconstruction of Escher’s workshop in Rome, 8212 visitors made a digital woodcut and 41,166 visitors made a selfie after the example in the masterpiece Hand Reflecting Sphere (1935).
The press also paid a lot of attention to Escher’s Journey. 1814 articles were published print and online, with a combined media value of €5,198,103. Dutch newspaper NRCawarded the ‘beautiful exhibition’ five stars and said that it was ‘breathtaking’ and ‘stunningly beautifully lit’. The Leeuwarder Courant also applauded the ‘exceptional lighting’. The BBC acclaimed Escher’s Journey as ‘the artistic highlight of the Cultural Capital’ and New Scientist spoke of a ‘beautiful, illuminating and comprehensive exhibition that is definitely worth a visit’.
economic benefits for leeuwarden
Together visitors spent €8,061,814 in Leeuwarden on tickets, food, drinks, accommodation, shopping and other activities. 195,325 people came to Leeuwarden especially for the Fries Museum or stayed longer in the city because of the exhibition. Furthermore, 29,270 people slept an average of 1.8 nights (i.e., the exhibition resulted in more than 53,000 overnight stays in the city).
learning, reading, buying
More than 7,300 school pupils visited the exhibition, 500 of who participated in a creative workshop in the museum’s studio. Another 3,100 pupils received guest lessons about Escher at school.
The museum shop and pop-up store also did well: 7,272 copies of the bilingual exhibition publication and 196,119 Escher items were sold. The turnover of the museum shop amounted to €927,714.
escher and rembrandt
Escher’s Journey may have ended, but the graphic artist is not yet out of sight. Planet Escher is still open until the end of the year and the exhibition Phantom Limb: Art beyond Escher can be seen until 6 January 2019. In addition, the Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics, the building where Escher was born, honours one of its most famous residents until 31 January 2020 with a presentation of photographs taken during his youth, objects and film fragments. Meanwhile, the Fries Museum is preparing for Rembrandt and Saskia: Love in the Dutch Golden Age. From 24 November, Rembrandt van Rijn and Saskia Uylenburgh will form the leitmotiv of an exhibition on society marriages in the 17th century.
The exhibition ‘Escher’s Journey’ was made possible by the main sponsor ING, the Blockbuster Fund, the Mondriaan Fund, the Municipality of Leeuwarden, St. Anthony Gasthuis, De Haan Advocaten & Notarissen, Leeuwarden-Fryslân European Capital of Culture 2018, Aegon, Fryslân Province and the BankGiro Lottery. With special thanks toMark Veldhuysen (M.C. Escher Foundation), Federico Guidiceandrea and Robin Lutz.
The Fries Museum is co-funded by the Ir. Abe Bonnema Foundation, the Province of Friesland, the Samenwerkingsverband Noord-Nederland, EZ/Kompas, the BankGiro Lottery and Aegon.