National Gallery of Art in DC is most popular US art museum for 1st time since 2008

The National Gallery of Art is seen in this photo. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/stacey_newman)

The National Gallery of Art, located on the National Mall in D.C., was the most popular art museum in the United States in 2022, according to an annual survey of museum visitors worldwide.

For the first time since 2008, the National Gallery of Art pushed New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s main building to second place, according to the annual Visitor Figures survey. The National Gallery had 3.3 million visitors, compared to 3.2 million visits for the Met Fifth Avenue.

While the National Gallery almost doubled its visitors from the height of the pandemic lockdown in 2021, it was still down 20% from its pre-pandemic figures. Last year’s attendance was almost 818,000 fewer visitors compared to 2019.

The Met’s attendance last year was down 1.7 million visitors — a 34% drop — since 2019.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture presents its inaugural African American Film Fest. (Alan Karchmer)

The second most popular art museum in the National Capital Region was the National Museum of African American History and Culture, with 1.1 million visitors in 2022 — down by 45% from its pre-pandemic attendance.

The third and fourth most-visited art museums in D.C. last year were the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which share the same building. The museums had approximately 954,000 visitors in 2022, down 44% from 2019.

The last time the National Gallery of Art topped the Met was in 2008, when the D.C.-based museum had almost five million visitors to the New York City museum’s 4.8 million guests.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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