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Top ten photography shows in 2016

By Ben Luke

Robert Mapplethorpe’s 1982 photograph of the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Some 70 years after his birth, the late Robert Mapplethorpe appears in the top ten twice. A paying exhibition at the Aarhus Kunstmuseum in Denmark attracted 2,250 visitors a day, but did not quite reach the heights of the free Getty Center show’s 3,364 visitors a day. Indeed, the Getty dominates the category, with three shows in the top 12. But this is one of the most pleasingly diverse lists, where solo and group shows, street and studio photography, Asian and US traditions, and leading art photographers and more commercial practitioners collide. Few exhibitions with an individual entry fee attracted big crowds: only the Aarhus’s Mapplethorpe and MoCA Taipei’s Mika Ninagawa shows feature in the top ten (entry to the rest was free or included in a general museum ticket). The category is topped by the winners of the Carmignac Photojournalism Award at the Saatchi Gallery, a show of six far from widely celebrated photographers, who drew around 2,000 visitors a day more than shows of greats such as Mapplethorpe, Irving Penn and Ishiuchi Miyako.