Contacted by Lusa news agency about the figures for the year, the official at the museum, which is housed in Lisbon’s Centro Cultural de Belém (CCB), said that 2019 “was the best year ever” since the institution’s inauguration in June 2007.
Last year was only the second in which the museum welcomed more than a million visitors to exhibitions, the official said. In 2016, it had 1,006,145 visitors.
In total, since its inaug-uration until 31 December 2019, the museum has welcomed 9,476,388 visitors to about a hundred exhibitions held, according to the same source.
The museum has been at the centre of a controversy after a court ordered the collection – the property of collector José ‘Joe’ Berardo – to be seized as part of a law suit by three banks that he owes almost 1 billion.
The museum was created following an agreement signed in 2006 under which Berardo transferred to the state for 10 years, for free, 862 works of art valued at the time at €316 million by London auctioneers Christie’s. The collection is now valued at around €500 million.
The original agreement was in 2016 extended by a further six years, with the possibility of automatic renewal from 2022, if it is not cancelled by either side in the six months before the end of its term.
Last year, as part of the dispute between Berardo and the creditor banks, and after controversial statements he made in testifying to a parliam-entary committee, the collection was ordered to be seized by the courts, with the CCB the faithful depositary.
In all, 2,200 of the collector’s works of art were seized.
Among others, the collection includes very rare works by Jean Dubuffet, Joan Miró, Yves Klein and Piet Mondrian, as well as others by Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.
Following the 2016 renegotiation of the agreement between the state and Berardo, admission to the museum is no longer free, except on Saturdays. Since 1 May 2017 admission on other days has cost €5, with discounts for young people, seniors and visitors with reduced mobility.
The Berardo Collection Museum and the Serralves Museum in Porto are on the list of the world’s 100 most visited museums, according to statistics from The Art Newspaper, an international publication specialising in art.