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Wednesday, January 20, 1999 Published at 12:26 GMT


London goes Monet mad

More than 130,000 tickets have been pre-sold

They knew it would be big, but even the staff of the Royal Academy of Art have been taken aback by the popuarity of the exhibition Monet in the 20th Century.

As Monet fever grips London the Academy has hinted it might open 24 hours-a-day to give keen gallery goers a chance to view the exhibition which opens on Saturday.

[ image: A vision of things to come? Journalists crowd round to have a look before the masses arrive]
A vision of things to come? Journalists crowd round to have a look before the masses arrive
On the day the press was let in to have a look the Academy had expected 600 journalists to show up. In the event they ran out of press packs after just three hours and had to cope with an estimated extra 200.

The gallery hopes this will be its most popular show ever and experience has given it some idea of how many people are likely to be interested. Its record attendance to date was 658,000 in 1990 - also for a Monet exhibition.

So far 132,000 tickets have been sold. But the Academy can take up to half a million visitors before the show closes on 18 April.

Monet is one of a handful of artists - Van Gogh is another - that everyone has heard of and who are, therefore, virtually guaranteed to sell out.

The 80 works in the show - which cost £1.8m to put on - are mostly from public and private collections in the United States, continental Europe and Japan.

[ image: The Royal Academy's last Monet exhibition was in 1990]
The Royal Academy's last Monet exhibition was in 1990
The exhibition was first mounted at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in the US where it attracted a record attendance of 566,016 in the last three months of 1998.

But the show won't be moving onto another gallery after the London dates - which could also help to explain its popularity.

The last time the Academy mounted a Monet exhibition it was overwhelmed, with huge queues for cloakrooms, restaurants and lavatories. This time it's getting round that problem by building temporary accommodation in its front courtyard -- although once the marquees were up, the local council refused planning permission.

Perversely there are some fears that the relentless hype may prove counter-productive, and that visitors will stay at home, convinced they've no chance of getting tickets for such a popular show.

Monet in the 20th Century runs from 23 January to 18 April 1999 at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly.

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