L.A.'s Warhol Boost


Andy Warhol isn’t Vincent Van Gogh, but he still packs some box-office punch. An economic impact study on the Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Andy Warhol Retrospective,” to be released today, concludes that the highly publicized exhibition, which ended a 12-week run on Aug. 18, pumped $55.8 million into Los Angeles’ economy.

That’s less than half the $121.9 million generated by “Van Gogh’s Van Goghs” during its longer, 17-week run in 1999 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “Warhol” also fell short of the $130 million predicted by Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., last December, when the show was announced. But Kyser said his early estimate was made in haste “without the depth of analysis we would like to have done.” He also blamed some of the shortfall on a reluctance to travel after the Sept. 11 attacks and the slow economy.

Still, he and representatives of the coalition that brought “Warhol” to Los Angeles--the only American venue for the show, which began in Berlin and moved on to London--say the study proves that the effort paid off. Promoted by the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau and funded by corporate sponsors, private donations and a $250,000 gift from the city, the $2.7-million exhibition produced $550,200 in hotel and sales tax revenue for the city, more than doubling the city’s investment, Kyser noted.

“It was great for the museum and great for the city,” said Bob Tuttle, chairman of the MOCA board of trustees. “If there was a negative, I can’t tell you what it was,” he said, ticking off some quantitative and some qualitative benefits for the museum, from record attendance and new corporate partnerships to an improved image of downtown Los Angeles.


The study was paid for by MOCA, the Convention & Visitors Bureau and Museums Magazine USA and conducted by Lauren Schlau Consulting, an independent marketing and demographics research firm in Los Angeles. CIC Research Inc., an economic research company in San Diego, generated the economic impact estimates. The analysis was based on interviews with 600 people who attended the exhibition, half of whom reside in L.A. County. Although the museum reported a total attendance of 195,000, including school groups and private events, all those interviewed for the study were among the 180,000 ticket-holders who went to the show during regular hours.

Attendance at the exhibition represents an increase of 275% over the 65,700 people who visited the museum during the same period in 2001, the study says. For more than half of them, it was their first trip to MOCA. About 66% of attendees reside in Los Angeles County; the remainder live in 29 states outside California, the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada and Mexico.

In questions that attempted to determine the effectiveness of advertising, the study found that 72% of Californians outside L.A. County decided to see the exhibition before traveling to Los Angeles. The majority of attendees from elsewhere, 52%, heard about the show after arriving in Los Angeles. Only 25% of visitors from other countries were aware of the show before they left home.

Nearly 30% of visitors outside the county said the Warhol show was their primary reason for coming to Los Angeles. That group infused an estimated $18.7 million into the economy, including 8,300 nights spent in hotels. Overall, more visitors stayed with friends or family than in hotels, but those who saw the exhibition spent 28,200 nights in hotels and spent $3.2 million on lodging. The average length of stay for out-of-town Warhol attendees was 4.9 nights, significantly higher than the 3.7-night average for domestic overnight visitors.

The study also covers visitors’ perceptions of downtown Los Angeles. Sixty-five percent of attendees said their experience exceeded their expectations, primarily because the city is cleaner than they thought and they found more interesting attractions than anticipated. Thirty-one percent said they found what they expected. The remaining 4% cited traffic congestion, parking problems and inadequate signage as reasons that their expectations were not met.

As for the museum, the $2.7-million show brought in $5.4 million in income from contributions, ticket sales and 6,600 new memberships, yielding $2.7 million in profits. In addition, the museum’s shop sold $1.65 million worth of Warhol items.

Jeremy Strick, MOCA director, called it “a tremendous success.”

The challenge now, he said, is to “keep that kind of positive visitor experience going” and to build on the success of joining forces with the city, corporate sponsors and the Convention & Visitors Bureau.


“My hope is that the proof that this show had tangible economic benefits as well as artistic benefits will help MOCA and other institutions produce important projects of equivalent cost and ambition in the future,” he said.