Main Hall

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s main hall (via Andrew Moor on Flickr)

Since 1893, admission to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has been as little as a penny. In exchange for a free lease from the city, the Met agreed to have visitors pay as much they wish. But as two lawyers posited in a class action lawsuit filed against the museum in 2013, the Met’s signage has always been pretty vague on this point, misleading visitors about the “recommended” $25 admissions price.  

On February 26, the Met finally settled this three-year-old lawsuit. Going forward, the museum will update the language on its signs, kiosks, and website, designating the $25 ticket price as “suggested” instead of “recommended.” Signs will also clearly advise visitors: “The amount you pay is up to you.” As the lawsuit argued, the original signs, with the word “recommended” in tiny print, led visitors to think they had to pay $25. 

The change might seem like an insignificant semantic technicality — is switching “recommended” to “suggested” really a victorious outcome for a 3-year lawsuit? — but the new effort to finally make this signage conspicuous will likely spare many of the museum’s 6 million annual visitors a guilt trip or two. Even if a cashier gives you side-eye when you donate $1, remember that the Met is required by law to welcome visitors of all financial means, and it isn’t exactly hurting for cash. The museum is one of the world’s richest cultural institutions, with a $2.5 billion investment portfolio, and only about 11 per cent of its operating expenses are covered by admissions. 

The updated admissions signage is perhaps the only promising aspect of the Meh-tropolitan’s recent rebranding campaign. It also coincides with the March opening of the Met Breuer, a new, additional location on Madison Avenue at 75th Street.

“All of our recent branding and marketing work has been aimed at simplifying our message of welcome to the public and emphasizing that we are accessible to the widest possible audience—now at three locations,” Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the museum, said in a statement. “The new admission signs will represent another step in this effort.”

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Carey Dunne

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering arts and culture. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Baffler, The Village Voice, and elsewhere.