Art galleries worldwide have experienced a decline in visitors since the popularisation of photography. However, the latest surveys from the government reflect the change in public opinion, with a surge of young people walking through the door- Art is back!

The first Art gallery, according to, was opened in 1661 in the city of Basel. It is incredible to think that such a regular feature in our towns and cities has been around since the time of Galilei! Art back in the 17th Century had a different purpose to how we view art now, not only decorative but also the main form of visual documentation before photography. Disciplines like painting were approached differently- oil paint being pre-mixed in tubes was only invented in 1841, so each artist had to create their own paint, making it much less accessible as a form of creative expression. This meant Art galleries were a great place to see things you could nowhere else- like Rousseau’s tiger, which he painted without having ever seen one. This was not flagged by the general population of France who had not seen one either.

 With the popularisation of photography in the 20th century, art galleries faced a decline in popularity in the mainstream as visitors became an ageing population. A significant reason for the decline of art galleries can be traced back to the emergence of new forms of recording events and people. With the rise of movements such as Abstract and Futurism, art was no longer the primary means of capturing reality. This shift in cultural perspective made art galleries less relevant and partially redundant.

The latest survey from the government, however, sings a different tune. Since the pandemic, visits have been increasing steadily, and 8% higher than the equivalent period the year before; statistics from a 2022 government survey show 45% of 16-25-year-olds say they have visited an art gallery in the last 12 months. This change in demographics gives an immensely optimistic view of the future, showing a surge of young people getting involved in art and supporting these establishments. This can be seen in our local community, Emma Carroll, a student in Manchester says, ‘I think most of my friends have been to a gallery recently’, showing these government statistics are more than just facts and figures, they show a shift in perspective.

This is great for our communities, carrying on these centuries-old traditions, and a great outlet for young people to get involved. Manchester Art Gallery has events for all ages, from historic tours to ‘baby socials’, there has never been a better time to get involved in your local community.