Museums are looking at the best attendance they've ever had, thanks to the way technology is revolutionizing the consumption of art.
According to the American Alliance of Museums, U.S. cultural institutions see more than 850 million visits per year — more than most sporting events — and represent about $21 billion in direct economic activity. Those impressively large numbers may be poised to grow, as museums boost their technological prowess amid a boom in mobile applications and offerings designed to enhance the experience of tech-savvy visitors.
To be sure, many art traditionalists are quick to criticize the integration of virtual reality and Van Gogh. However, museums are making a surprising discovery: technology isn't hindering the appreciation of physical art.
In fact, museum attendance has skyrocketed more than ever since computers and iPads entered the art realm, some art experts say. It's allowing visitors to experience art in a new way, while bringing exhibits to others that may never even set foot in the institution at all.
So why wouldn't visitors be tempted to abandon museums altogether in favor of scrolling Instagram? It boils down to physical experiences that make art more memorable —just like with any relationship, according to the founder and CEO of Artsy, the world's largest online collection of art.
"Ultimately, the physical experience of art is more just like online dating," Carter Cleveland told CNBC recently. "We want to meet someone physically in the end, but it's spurred with online platforms."