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Matisse cut-outs in new Tate record

A "once in a lifetime" show on Henri Matisse's paper cut-outs has smashed a new record to become the Tate's most popular exhibition.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs explored the final chapter in the French artist's career, when ill health prevented him from painting.

Matisse initially cut painted paper to make drafts for his commissions but later chose the cut-outs over painting, inventing a new medium which artists have been "working hard to digest ever since".

The exhibition, this year at Tate Modern, has become the first at the Tate galleries to draw more than half a million visitors, with 562,622 people.

The record was previously held by Matisse/Picasso at Tate Modern in 2002, which attracted 467,166 visitors.

Damien Hirst's 2012 solo show, complete with a rotting cow's head and a shark suspended in formaldehyde, is now third with 463,087 visitors.

The Matisse show exceeded expectations with almost 4,000 visitors each day until it closed its doors earlier this month.

Tate Director Sir Nicholas Serota credited the record number of visitors to the "joyous quality of the works themselves".

He added: "The fact that they had not been brought together for nearly 40 years captured people's imagination. People were aware that this might be the only opportunity in their lifetime to see all these works together."

Across its four sites - Tate Modern, Tate Britain, St Ives and Liverpool - total visitor numbers were down to 7.03 million compared to 7.74 million (2012/13) and 7.06 million (2011/12).

But Tate Modern retained its position as the world's most visited gallery of modern and contemporary art, with almost five million visitors, while Tate Britain had 1.4 million.

Asked what would happen to the name Tate Britain if Scotland votes for independence, Sir Nicholas said: "It remains a collection of art from the British Isles. We're not about to cut off a section of art and return to Scotland.

"The name will remain. We intend and expect all partnerships we have at the present to continue."

Sir Nicholas said that 2012/13 had been an "exceptional year" for Tate thanks to the lure of Hirst and the Tanks gallery space which opened at Tate Modern.

"We will always expect to see a fluctuation year on year. This time next year you will be asking why the audience numbers went up in 2014/15," he said.

"There will always be fluctuations but the general trend is to see more visitors."

He admitted that the Kenneth Clark - Looking for Civilisation exhibition, which explored the impact on art of the art historian and broadcaster "did not get quite as many visitors as we hoped it would and didn't quite capture the imagination to the extent we anticipated."

But he added: "That doesn't mean it's a show we shouldn't do. Part of our responsibility is to shed light on areas that have been forgotten."

Meanwhile, Tate has announced that many of its most famous art works will be loaned to museums and galleries around the UK to make them accessible "not just to those living in London and those able to reach London".

Tracey Emin's bed - complete with empty vodka bottles, cigarette butts and discarded condoms - on long-term loan to the Tate after fetching £2.54 million at auction, will be shown at Turner Contemporary in Margate, Emin's home town, as well as in London and Liverpool.

Other loans will include David Hockney's My Parents (1977) to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art in Norwich, Matisse's The Snail (1953) to Tate Liverpool and Roy Lichtenstein's Wall Explosion II (1965) to Manchester Art Gallery, Whitworth Art Gallery and National Galleries of Scotland.

Constable's Salisbury Cathedral From The Meadows (1831), purchased by Tate with help from the National Lottery, will be shown in Oriel y Parc in Pembrokeshire, Wales and the National Galleries of Scotland.

Tate acquired more than 1,000 acquisitions in the last year, worth a total £33.6 million.

A 30-minute black and white film of a dying fly, lying on its back, was presented as a gift by the artist Douglas Gordon to the Artist Rooms collection.

"We see them dying in corners of rooms at home, we don't care about them," the artist has said of his 2008 work, Film Noir (Fly). "But seeing something like this in a museum becomes a much more distressing game to play."

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