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Michelangelo Beats Koons, McQueen, as Met Attendance Tops 700,000

Old Masters: still got it.
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Contemporary art is not all the rage, after all. At least, it’s not the only rage.

“Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer,” a sprawling exhibition that ended its three-month run at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Monday, attracted 702,516 people, landing as the 10th-most-attended show at the New York-based museum.

Sourced from 50 public and private collections in the U.S. and Europe, the exhibition elbowed out “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” a 2011 show that had occupied the slot after attracting 661,509 visitors.

The Renaissance master also beat “Jeff Koons on the Roof,” a menagerie of giant, balloon-like creatures by the most expensive living American artist at auction. That exhibition attracted 657,801 people in 2008. The Michelangelo show is within a stone’s throw of the numbers for a 2010 Pablo Picasso show that drew 703,256 visitors. (The all-time record is held by “The Treasures of Tutankhamun,” which ran in the late 1970s and drew more than 1.3 million people.)

“We are delighted that more than 700,000 people from around the world experienced first-hand the towering genius of Michelangelo through this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition,” Daniel H. Weiss, president and chief executive officer of the Met, said in a statement. “Eight years in the making, the show was a comprehensive and breathtaking reexamination of a luminary of Renaissance art, and marks the first time a collection of this magnitude has been united in one place.”

The exhibition included 133 drawings and three marble sculptures by Michelangelo (1475-1564), starting with his earliest painting—a torture scene he created at a tender young age. The museum also recreated, albeit on a smaller scale, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the artist's most famous work. There were commissioned portraits, cartoons and architectural drawings. Some items on loan had never before left Italy.