Over the past seven years, the Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman has alternately delighted tourists and frustrated critics with his kitschy, colossal hippos, pigs, and most famously, rubber ducks that ply the world’s ports, drawing massive crowds.
Hofman’s latest is Moon Rabbit, an 83-foot-tall plastic-and-wood bunny that’s currently lounging on a grassy bunker at the Mid-Autumn Festival in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan. More than one million people have visited the giant grinning rabbit since the exhibition opened last week, according to the local government; 350,000 of them on Sunday alone. By comparison, “The Gates,” Jean-Claude and Christo’s 2005 public art exhibition that saw 7,503 orange vinyl flags placed around New York’s Central Park, had 2.5 million visitors in two weeks, according to the city.
If Moon Rabbit’s attendance levels over the past five days held steady for a year, it would have almost eight times as many visitors as the Louvre, 11 times as many as the British Museum, and 20 times as many as the Centre Pompidou, according to figures in the Art Newspaper’s visitors report for 2013 (pdf).
Of course, attendance would likely drop off if Moon Rabbit were on view for longer than a week and half. Museums charge entrance fees (most of the time), while Hofman’s spectacles are free. And while every institution wants visitors, museum shows don’t necessarily aspire to the same crowd-pleasing notes as Hofman’s fare.
But even comparing Moon Rabbit’s daily attendance to that of blockbuster museum exhibitions produces staggering disparities. So far, Moon Rabbit has averaged 200,800 visits per day. The biggest free exhibition of 2013 was “Impressionism: Paris and Modernity,” at Centro Cultural Banco du Brasil, in Rio de Janeiro, with 8,099 daily visitors and 561,142 total over three months.
The most visited exhibition overall last year was “The Cultural Grandeur of the Western Zhou Dynasty,” in Taipei’s National Palace Museum, where almost 11,000 people lined up daily to see bronze vessels, jade artifacts, and oracle bones from the 11th to 8th centuries BCE. In three months, the show had 1,007,062 visitors. Moon Rabbit seems almost certain to surpass that in its first week.