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Ask Me Anything: The Met's New Admission Policy

Ask Me Anything Question

"I saw recently in the news that the Met in NYC will begin charging mandatory admission fees after nearly 50 years of suggested admission fees. Isn't that a misstep?"

Tony Lance’s Answer

“Advancing art is easy - financing it is not.” – George, Sunday in the Park with George, Stephen Sondheim

There are many opinions about whether this is good or bad for not only the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but also New York City. There’s the New Yorker which has come out saying this “new pay policy diminishes New York City”) and The New York Times’ chief art critic agrees. But there are also the facts that have gotten us to where we are. The new required admission fee has been introduced because of economic necessity. The museum reported a roughly $10 million deficit for the 2016/2017 fiscal year –stemming from operational challenges and an increasingly lower number of visitors who pay the full suggested price of $25:  63% a decade ago has dropped to only 17% this past year. “Admission fees provide forty-three million dollars a year, which amounts to fourteen per cent of the museum’s annual operating budget” (The New Yorker). Arguments for a free-for-all museum cite that the budget should be subsidizing the ticket cost instead of installing new fountains or tables outside of its façade facing 5th Avenue. Be that as it may, the fact remains that this move is not only good for New York City and The Met, but was a long time coming.

Here's what the other big hitters in New York charge for their admission:

Whitney Museum of American Art: $25 adults; $18 seniors and students; Free for 18 and under
Museum of Modern Art: $25 adults; $18 seniors; $14 students; Free for 16 and under
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: $25 adults; $18 seniors and students; Free for children under 12

Oh…and the Louvre in Paris charges €15 ($19) and the Art Institute of Chicago charges $25.

See a trend? These museums have applied a value to the experience of viewing the works of art in their buildings and still the price of the ticket doesn’t cover all operating costs. At The Met, memberships and admissions only cover 25% of the annual operating budget. The City of New York provides about 10% from city taxes and the rest comes from endowments, gifts, grants, and other various funds. Those who have come to New York as tourists are going to pay their fair share…in much the same way that they will pay for going up the Empire State Building or to see a Broadway show. While most of the museum visitors are foreign or from out of state, those who are New York State residents will continue to be able to pay a suggested admission price, alongside free admission for students in the tristate area. The Met is simply capitalizing on a ticket charge rather than leaving money on the table to be spent elsewhere in the city. The new $25 price tag also comes with 3 days of museum entry to all three of their major New York campuses: The Cloisters (with its extensive medieval collection and surrounding Fort Tryon Park) and The Met Breuer (a strikingly modern building that once housed the Whitney and now features a rotating modern art collection). This increased engagement opportunity could very well also increase museum loyalty and spending on food and merchandise – and perhaps donations.

Change is hard, and outrage when anything at a cultural institution changes is to be expected – and not just in New York! But how could they continue to put their faith in out of town visitors when 50 years of declining returns says otherwise?

The mission of The Metropolitan Museum of Art is to collect, preserve, study, exhibit, and stimulate appreciation for and advance knowledge of works of art that collectively represent the broadest spectrum of human achievement at the highest level of quality, all in the service of the public and in accordance with the highest professional standards.” This mission was in jeopardy by a lack of money. So, here we are…and the mission carries on!

“And that is the state of the art!” – Sunday in the Park with George, Stephen Sondheim

Do you have a question for the team at JCA Arts Marketing? Submit it here. It could be featured in an upcoming Ask Me Anything post.

JCA Arts Marketing collaborates with cultural organizations to increase revenue, boost attendance and membership, and grow patron loyalty. We provide consulting and software services to hundreds of cultural institutions across multiple genres, including dance, museums, opera, performing arts centers, symphony, and theatre. We can help you achieve your marketing goals.

Tony Lance, Consultant, JCA Arts Marketing

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