The world’s biggest companies invest huge sums of time and money in reputation management. And yet, when measured, art museums have demonstrably better reputations than even the most well-regarded businesses in the world.
A recent research project conducted by myself and Patricia Heijndijk from the University of the Netherlands to rank the world’s leading museums by reputation demonstrates that, despite their best efforts, organisations the world over have a lot learn from how museums cultivate a positive public image.
By adapting “RepTrak”, an established tool used to measure the reputations of the world’s best known companies, we conducted interviews with over 12,000 individuals – both museum visitors and non-museum visitors. We asked about the galleries themselves, the collections, their role in the local community, and what they did to educate and inform society, amongst much else – and the results were stark.
While the fact that France’s Louvre topped our list might not be a huge surprise given its profile, what was notable was that on a scale of 100, museums scored on average 15 points above the world’s highest ranked companies. After a career spent measuring reputations in the corporate world, I can tell you this is a significant gap.
Other notable results were the strong performance of the U.K.’s Tate Modern museum across five of the seven evaluations – a few small improvements in key areas could see them rocket up the overall ranking – and the relatively poor performance of the Vatican Museums in Rome, one of the most visited in the world. It is also apparent that the overall image of the country or city a museum is located in appears to have a large say in its overall evaluation.
So – what can businesses learn from museums? There are many elements, but perhaps the most important is that museums have stellar reputations because they have purpose driven strategies that are rooted in a tradition of serving their customers – the public. While the authenticity of a museum’s purpose alone improves public perception and trust – what they offer elevates their users in a way that companies may find hard to replicate.
It might be a challenge to match the way a museums make their customers feel, but achieve it and the payoff could be considerable.
So which museums do people love best?
Our reputation study ranks the 18 most visited art museums among visitors in 10 countries. Further details on the reputation scores can be viewed here. Continue below to see the world’s top ranked art museums
#1 The Louvre, France
#1 The Louvre, France
Located in Central Paris, and originally built as a fortress in the 12th Century, the Louvre is one of the oldest art museums in the rankings, opening its doors in 1793. Not only is the Louvre the largest museum in the world, but it is also the world’s most popular too, boasting over 7.3 million visitors in 2016 alone. Ranking highest in all five key reputation drivers regarding its collection, the Louvre has over 38,000 artefacts in eight specific departments, with its most iconic being Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
The Louvre tops the rankings for global reputation, with a score of 84.3%, despite placing second within Europe, behind the Dutch Van Gogh Museum. It is highly regarded for the quality of its collection, contribution to society and its leadership in the museum world, ranking top for all three of those specific areas. The Louvre is proof that there is a correlation between the familiarity of a museum and its reputation, with 63% of participants being aware of it, ranking it the most well-known art museum.
‘Self-portrait as a painter’ by Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, during the exhibition ‘On the Verge... [+] of Insanity. Van Gogh and his illness’, at the Van Gogh Museum. (Credit REMKO DE WAAL/AFP/Getty Images)
#2 Van Gogh Museum, Netherlands
Dedicated solely to the work of Vincent Van Gogh, the Amsterdam based museum attracts over 2 million visitors annually. Established in 1976, it has the largest collection of Van Gogh artwork worldwide, possessing 1,300 pieces, including his iconic paintings Sunflowers, Self-Portrait and The Potato Eaters. Although it is only ranked 31st in the most visited art museums globally, the Van Gogh Museum takes second place for its global reputation ranking, with a score of 81.9%.
The Van Gogh museum is most highly appreciated in Europe, topping the continent’s ranking with a marginally higher reputation than the Louvre. However, its ranking was less consistent in other regions, with Asia, for example, scoring it 15th. The museum ranks well within four reputation drivers, placing 1st for its governance, 2nd for contribution to society and 3rd for both its collection and its qualities as a workplace. Despite being one of the younger museums in the rankings, it is the 5th most well-known and reinforces the link between familiarity of a museum and a high reputation.
#3 Rijksmuseum, Netherlands
Founded in The Hague in 1800, The Rijksmuseum then moved to Amsterdam in 1808. The current main building was designed by Pierre Cuypers and first opened its doors in 1885. In 2013 the museum was reopened after a ten-year renovation project which cost €375 million. It displays 8,000 artefacts of art and history, and houses a collection of 1 million objects from the years 1200–2000. Amongst this collection are masterpieces from world famous artists such as Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer. The Rijksmuseum is only the 17th most popular art museum globally, attracting around 2.5 million visitors each year.
The high global rankings of the two prominent Dutch museums (Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum) can partly be explained by the positive image of The Netherlands and of the city of Amsterdam. The Rijksmuseum scores high on the three reputation drivers that evaluate the attractiveness of the collection. It also scores well on two other key drivers of reputation: societal relevance and managing the museum professionally. In addition, Rijksmuseum scores positively on workplace, innovation and performance. All of these factors explain the impressive position of the Dutch museum in the overall global ranking, coming 3rd with a high score of 81.9% and a familiarly rating of over 30%.
#4 State Hermitage, Russia
Stretching over 700,000 square feet, The State Hermitage museum, located in St. Petersburg, is one of the largest museums in the world, second only to the Louvre in sheer size. Boasting around 4.1 million visitors, it is not only the main tourist attraction in St. Petersburg, but also the 8th most visited museum in the world. Established in 1764, the museum houses over three million pieces making it the largest display of paintings in the world. The museum exhibits pieces from world famous artists such as Picasso, Da Vinci and Rembrandt.
The State Hermitage Museum, places highly in the global reputation rankings, with a score of 81.4%. It also ranks 2nd for the quality of its collection. However, The State Hermitage has the largest gap in its reputation score between its home country and abroad, with a stellar reputation of 93% in Russia, compared to only 80% abroad. This could be because St Petersburg has the lowest city image of all the locations in the rankings.
#5 British Museum, U.K.
Possessing the largest collection of artefacts in the world (8 million), the London-based, British Museum was established in 1759, originally as an homage to the research of physician and scientist Sir Hans Sloane. Now, with 6.8 million visitors annually, it is the 3rd most visited museum globally and the second oldest in the overall rankings. The British Museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture, not only hosting pieces from artists such as Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Van Gogh, but also housing famous historical artefacts such as the Rosetta Stone and the Mummy of Katebet.
The British Museum is placed 5th in the rankings, with a score of 80.8%, and is noticeably popular and highly placed across all continents. However, with a ranking of 89.5% in the U.K., it provides the second biggest gap of appreciation between home country and abroad, proving it is significantly more well regarded in the U.K. compared to elsewhere. The British Museum’s ranking of 2nd most well-known museum and 3rd most desirable location appears to have helped boost its global reputation.
#6 Musée d’Orsay, France
Hosting the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, the Musee d’Orsay boasts 3 million annual visitors, making it the 13th most popular globally. Located in Paris and opened in 1986 on the grounds of an old railway station, it is one of the largest art museums within Europe. It possesses a vast collection of pieces featuring artists such as, Monet, Van Gogh and Munch.
Despite only being the 3rd most visited art museum in France, it has the 6th best reputation worldwide, with a score of 80.6%. However, its reputation fluctuates enormously from continent to continent, with a ranking of 5th in Europe, but 15th in the Americas. The museum is highly regarded for its innovation and also places 6th for ‘most familiar’, reinforcing the link between a museum’s reputation and how well-known it is.
#7 Vatican Museums, Italy
Located in the historical and religious landscape of Vatican City, The Vatican Museums is the oldest in the rankings, opening its doors in 1506. Originally used as papal palaces, it is now a series of galleries, housing over 70,000 artefacts including several monumental works, such as the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms and the Borgia Apartment. Attracting over 6 million visitors annually, the Vatican Museums is both the 5th most visited museum globally and the 5th largest in the world.
The museum ranks 7th for its global reputation with a score of 80.4%. It is also the 4th most well-known in the rankings with over 40% of participants being familiar with it. Apparently, the appreciation of the Vatican Museums is a lot higher in Asia, where it comes 3rd in their reputation rankings. A country’s or city’s image can drastically improve a museum’s reputation and this is evident with the Vatican Museums, with Italy ranking as the second best of all ten countries, with only the Netherlands being its superior.
#8 Museo del Prado, Spain
Located in Madrid, The Museo del Prado, is Spain’s national art museum, boasting over 3 million visitors annually. It is one of the oldest national museums, opening its doors in 1819 and housing Spanish paintings from the 11th-18th centuries, as well as numerous masterpieces from foreign artists such as Van Dyck and Rembrandt. The museum currently has around 8,200 drawings within its collection, 7,600 paintings, 4,800 prints, and 1,000 sculptures, in addition to a large number of other works of art and historic documents.
Like many other European national museums, The Museo del Prado, scored highly for its reputation in its home country of Spain, with a score of 83.1%. However, its middling global ranking of 8th may be due to its lack of familiarity in the Americas, ranking only 14th, despite scoring especially highly on the quality of its collection.
#9 National Gallery, U.K.
Attracting over 6.2 million visitors annually, the National Gallery, located in Trafalgar Square, London, is the 4th most popular art museum globally and 2nd nationally. Established in 1824, it houses over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. Included within this collection are pieces from artists such as Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Monet, and it also possesses one of the surviving copies of Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
With its key reputation driver being its distinguished and inspiring collection, the National Gallery is the 3rd most well-known museum within the rankings. However, it proves to be a slight outlier with regards to the correlation between familiarity and reputation, placing 9th in the global rankings on a score of 79.5%. Its reputation is takes a hit in Asia, where it is placed last of all museums, although in Europe and the Americas the National Gallery scores highly. The museum’s reputation is marginally higher in the U.K. compared to abroad, with a 7% difference in its ranking.
#10 Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA
Opened in 1872, in Manhattan, New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is home to over 2 million artefacts, housed in seventeen specific curatorial departments. The Met is one of the most popular museums globally, and with over 7 million visitors annually it is the most visited art museum in America and 2nd globally. The museum focuses on art education for the American public and hosts a vast collection of artefacts including work from the likes of Picasso, Matisse and Van Gogh.
The Met being 2nd most popular and 4th largest museum globally, does not correlate to its reputation ranking, with it placing 10th in the rankings (with a score of 79.3%). The museums reputation rating was significantly higher in Asia (4th) and in the Americas (7th), than in Europe (11th), perhaps reflecting Europeans bias to their own institutions.
#11 National Gallery of Art, USA
Located in Washington D.C., the National Gallery of Art was privately established in 1937 and opened to the public free of charge, tracing the development of Western Art from the Middle Ages to present day. The museum is one of the largest in North America, boasting 4.3 million visitors annually, ranking 2nd nationally and 7th globally for popularity. The Gallery’s collection includes pieces from artists such as, Monet, Van Gogh and Picasso.
Despite having the 2nd highest ranking in Asia, the National Gallery of Art only ranks 11th in the global reputation table (with a score of 79.1%). Its position within its home country is the lowest of the three museums featured, however the museum scores higher than the Museum of Modern Art in Asia and Europe, and higher than the Met in Asia as well. The National Gallery of Art’s familiarity ranking is one of the lowest of all the museums (14th), reinforcing the link between awareness and reputation. Although it is places third for its overall performance this is not enough to boost the museum’s global reputation.
#12 Tate Modern, U.K.
Opened by Queen Elizabeth II, in the year 2000, the Tate Modern is the second youngest entrant in the rankings. Based in London, it is Britain’s national gallery of modern art, having eight specific themed departments, which hold artwork from 1900 to the present day. The museum attracts 5.8 million annual visitors, making it the 6th most visited art museum globally and 3rd nationally. Its collection of modern art boasts work from artists such as, Lichtenstein, Dali and Picasso, whilst also housing Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych.
Although the Tate
Modern is only ranked 12th for its global reputation with a score of 78.9%, it ranks highly in five drivers of reputation. Featuring 1st for its innovation, 2nd for its leadership in the art world, its performance and its quality as a workplace, whilst also positioning 3rd for governance. Despite ranking so well in these areas, it does not place highly for its collection, which is the most important driver for reputation. The Tate Modern has a significantly better reputation within the Americas, placing 5th, compared to only scoring 13th in Asia. Due to it being one of the youngest museums and also scoring highly for many drivers of reputation, the Tate Modern has arguably the best potential to increase its ranking.
Pedestrians walk outside the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York (Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg... [+]
#13 Museum of Modern Art, USA
Opening just nine days after the Wall Street crash, in 1929, New York’s Museum of Modern Art holds the largest collection of contemporary art, making it one of the most influential museums in the world. The museum was developed and established by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, the wife of John D. Rockefeller Jr, along with two of her friends, and now possesses an array of art with over 150,000 pieces of work. Artists represented within this collection include Picasso, Warhol and Dali, whilst the museum also holds Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting.
The Museum of Modern Art is placed 13th within the global rankings, with a score of 78.4%, however its reputation fluctuates from continent to continent. In the Americas, it is ranked 4th most reputable, Within Asia and Europe it has a lower ranking, which could potentially be due to its relatively low familiarity rating (36%) and low reputation of its location (56%). The museum ranks 2nd highest for its innovation, however this is not enough to lift its overall position.
(Credit: Alastair Miller/Bloomberg News)
#14 Musée National d’Art Moderne, France
Opening in Paris, in 1947, the Musee National d’Art Moderne hosts the second largest collection of contemporary art in the world, encompassing more than 100,000 pieces of work. Attracting 3.3 million visitors annually, it is the 2nd most visited art museum in France and 11th globally. The museum houses both modern art (from 1905-1960) and contemporary art (from 1960 onwards), with pieces from artists such as, Picasso, Lichtenstein and Warhol.
Despite placing 3rd for its innovation, the Musee National d’Art Moderne only ranks 14th for its general reputation (with a score of 78.4%). However, its level of appreciation is substantially higher within Asia, where it places 6th, compared to 11th in the Americas and 14th in Europe. Although it is the 2nd most visited museum in France, it is less appreciated nationally, with its reputation score being 7% lower than Musee D’Orsay and almost 10% lower than the Louvre.
#15 Reina Sofia, Spain
The Reina Sofia is located in Madrid and is Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art. The museum was officially inaugurated in 1986, making it one of the youngest in the rankings. However, with over 3.5 million visitors, The Reina Sofia is now the 9th most popular art museum. It houses an array of art work, including collections from Spain’s two greatest 20th-century masters, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.
The Reina Sofia only ranks 15th for its overall reputation, with a score of 78.2%, however, it places noticeably higher in Asia with a ranking of 10th. The centre of art, is a lot younger than Madrid’s other art museum, Museo del Prado, which could explain its lack of familiarity, with only 25% of the participants being aware of it. This research infers that Reina scores lowly for educating the local community and contributing to society. This could explain its particularly low overall ranking.
#16 National Art Center, Japan
Established in 2007, the National Art Center, in Tokyo, is the youngest of all the museums in the ranking. It is different to other art museums due to the fact it does not actually have a permanent collection. It is described as an ‘empty museum’ only hosting exhibitions, of which it held 69 in its first year of opening. Boasting 2 million visitors annually, the National Art Center also hosted a Monet exhibition in 2007 which went on to be second most visited display of the year globally.
Despite placing 3rd within the Americas, ranking higher than museums such as the Rijksmuseum, the British Museum and the State Hermitage, the National Art Center finished 16th within the global reputation rankings, with a score 77.5%. Although it is seen as an outstanding museum by international experts, it scores lowly for quality of collection and contribution to society. It is the 3rd least familiar within the rankings and this is likely due to how young the museum is. It also has a noticeably low reputation score within its own country, being no more appreciated in Japan as it is in the other nine countries surveyed.
#17 Shanghai Museum, China
Located in the People’s Square in Shanghai, the museum hosts a large collection of Chinese art, with over 120,000 pieces divided into eleven specific galleries. Originally established in 1952, then rebuilt in 1996, it attracts 1.9 million visitors annually despite it not even being one of the largest museums in China. The museum also houses several items of Chinese national importance, including one of three existing specimens of a transparent bronze mirror from the Han Dynasty.
The Shanghai museum places 17th for its global reputation and also 17th in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Ranking 2nd least well-known museum, it reinforces the link between a museum’s familiarity and overall reputation. It has the lowest home country reputation and is one of only two museums within the rankings that have a higher appreciation abroad than in its own country.
(Credit: MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images)
#18 Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Brazil
The Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, located in the historic centre of Rio de Janeiro, is a neoclassical building that previously had links to finance and business. Established in 1989, the museum quickly became one of the most important cultural centres in Brazil, now attracting over 2.2 million visitors annually. Its post-Impressionist masterpiece collection was the world’s most-visited exhibition in 2016. The museum has an array of facilities including a cinema, two theatres and a permanent display of the evolution of currency in Brazil.
The museum ranks 18th for its global reputation, with a score of 74.4%. However, it should be noted that the CCBB is the least well-known museum in the ranking, with only 19% of participants having heard of it. It is quite possible that this has negatively affected its global ranking. This lack of familiarity is likely due to the historical heritage of the European and US giants, compared to relatively new kids on the block in Asia and Latin America. The CCBB has the second lowest reputation in its own country (72.5%) having a higher reputation abroad than in Brazil.