The Paris Pinacotheque, which had ruffled the feathers of the French capital's major museums with a string of blockbuster shows on Edvard Munch, Jackson Pollock, Man Ray and the Chinese terracotta warriors of Xian, said its takings had dropped by a quarter in two years.
The catastrophic drop in visitors after the November terror attacks in city that left 130 people dead was the final straw, its founder told AFP.
Curator Marc Restellini, who had hugely expanded the gallery on the chic Place de la Madeleine in 2011, said the “large drop in attendance figures means we cannot continue in such costly premises”.
But he said he hoped to reopen the Pinacotheque — whose branch in Singapore is not affected by the closure — “in the medium term in premises that are more financially sustainable”.
Nearly half a million people flocked to see the Pinacotheque's show on the terracotta army in 2008, while an exhibition of 17th-century Dutch masters was seen by 700,000 people in four months, almost double the number of visitors of the headline shows at the Louvre and the Grand Palais at the time.
The abrupt closure with a month still to run of a show of fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld's photographs took many by surprise, although several major Paris institutions have been badly hit since the attacks.
Something of a maverick, Restellini had been highly critical of way the established French galleries staged their shows, claiming they were too academic and elitist.
“Museums are too often the graveyards of works of art. I want to bring them to life,” he told AFP.
He also claimed his publicly-funded rivals had attempted to block his Munch show, in which several works by the Norwegian painter of “The Scream” were shown for the first time.
However, far less successful recent shows on the Indian erotic art of the “Kama Sutra” and Japanese geisha culture disproved the maxim that sell always sells.
Restellini, who made his name as an artistic director of Paris' small but prestigious Luxembourg museum, said he hoped to reopen two future pinacotheques in Paris, one for contemporary art and another dedicated to historical and cultural shows.
The Pinacotheque's permanent collection created by Restellini will be go on show either in Singapore or be put into storage, he said.