Last week the Metropolitan Museum of Art sent out a press release about a new lease amendment signed by the museum and the City of New York. The amendment concerns the museum’s admission policy, which is currently pay what you wish, and once it was announced, all hell broke loose.
“Mayor Bloomberg grants Metropolitan Museum of Art right to charge mandatory entrance fee,” went the Daily News headline. ”In Case You Were Wondering, The Met Can Charge For Admission,” said HuffPo. “Met Museum Could Start Charging Mandatory Admission Fee,” reported the L Magazine blog. NBC News took their fear-mongering to Twitter:
On his blog Modern Art Notes, critic Tyler Green went off on “New York’s 1% mayor secretly conspir[ing] with the director, 1%ers on the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to give the museum the option to screw the 99% who want to visit the Met.” (To be fair, Green later dialed back and wrote a more level-headed post.)
SO MUCH PANICKING — over what? Here’s the press release:
The new amendment confirms and continues the 42-year-long agreement under which the Met and the City first established, and has since maintained, a discretionary admission policy for the institution.
So basically, the Met can continue its pay-what-you-wish admission policy, and said policy is totally legal. That’s it.
What probably freaked people out is the next line, which says,
… the new amendment authorizes the museum, should the need arise, to consider a range of admission modifications in future years, subject as in the past to review and approval by the City.
I asked Harold Holzer, the Met’s senior vice president for public affairs, about the confusion here. “The amendment codifies the policy we’ve followed with the city’s approval for the last 40+ years, and leaves a range of options for future if ever needed, and only with the city’s OK,” he told Hyperallergic. “All would require going back to City for consultation and permission if we wanted to explore.”
Yes, the door is now legally open on a change in admission policy, but the museum would need city approval for it, just as it always has. And the impetus for all this anyway is the ongoing, ridiculous lawsuits that claim the Met should be free and is deceiving people into paying admission. ”If, in some wild scenario, the lawsuit is successful and the law requires the Met repay people for admission for the last 40 years, I think we’d have to reconsider how we could keep our doors open,” Holzer told the Huffington Post. Ironic how the crusading lawsuits could end up being the reason we all have to pay.
In the meantime, Holzer assured me that the museum has ”no plans to change pay-what-you-wish at all.” So let’s please move on to worrying about other, actual cultural issues — like young white men who think dressing up like Trayon Martin for Halloween is OK.
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