Ms Pyne said: “We had hoped to keep a few more visitors, but I think with all the pressures on people’s budgets, they are spending less on leisure or travel, so I think we are doing really well.
“We would always want more, but I think in the current context 600,000 is a pretty impressive figure.”
The Biennial has undoubtedly been a boost, with over 420,000 people visiting the Tate by the end of August this year. The Tate remains by some margin the biggest art gallery outside of London.
Up until this year, the Walker Art Gallery faced a similar post-2008 slump.
It boasted nearly 400,000 visitors in 2008. Last year this was slashed by almost a half to just 214,000, but with the immensely popular Rolf Harris exhibition this summer, it has seen a considerable resurgence in 2012.
The exhibition attracted 115,780 people in just three months and attendance is up 49% to September.
Dr Fleming suggests that art galleries, as clear points of attraction to foreign visitors, were always going to see the biggest spike and the biggest corresponding fall after 2008.
“We have an underlying growth with the Walker. There was a spike in 2008 and just because there was a fallback afterwards that doesn’t mean something is going wrong.”
Many contend that at a time of acute spending restraint, a particular challenge is that cities outside of London are the first to feel the pain.
Claire McColgan, head of culture at Liverpool City Council, said : “There’s a real danger that funding becomes centralised and is all about the big boys in the capital.
“Often the regions can be neglected because London is culturally so massive and it’s where the decision makers and media are based.
“Liverpool is one of those centres of excellence outside of London and its imperative that it’s not forgotten.”
This view is echoed by Patrick Henry at the Open Eye.
“It’s a long standing problem. If you’re not in London then you struggle for profile, for media visibility and you’re disadvantaged in the fight for funding.”
Another potential threat lies round the corner if Liverpool moves from being on Unesco’s ‘at risk’ list to losing its World Heritage Site status.
With the Liverpool Waters development as it stands, the city could be stripped of this badge of cultural excellence.
However, most seem convinced common sense will prevail.
Dr Fleming said: “It would make us all look ridiculous and make the city look ridiculous [if we lost heritage status]. Reputation wise, it would give people the opportunity to say that Liverpool has no idea how to manage its cultural heritage. That’s why it’s not going to happen.”
So is the 2008 legacy under threat?
Ms McColgan said she is “very proud of the last four years, despite the cuts and losses to infrastructure.”
“Funding cuts present a very great challenge to our cultural organisations, but in spite of the dangers I’m extremely confident that if we continue to be ambitious and inventive we can adapt and take the legacy of 2008 forward.”
Mike Stubbs at FACT, among others, rejoices at the ability of Liverpool’s cultural sector to work together, for mutual benefit.
“It’s structurally a fantastic space, in the way people work together. There are all sorts of collaborations going on between organisations which from my experience makes the city very unique.”
While NML’s Dr Fleming seems content to cope with the cards he is dealt, his analysis is blunt.
“I am merely a caretaker of the collections in the museum. All I’m doing is taking money from the nation to look after them.
“If the nation wants to give me less money, then I won’t be able to do as good a job, that’s the deal.”