The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which for decades has only had a recommended admission policy, allowing visitors to name their price, will start charging mandatory admission. The decision, first hinted at in April of last year, was announced this morning at a press conference. The new policy will go into effect on March 1, at which time signage throughout the museum’s three branches will be changed over.
Under the new terms, adult visitors from outside New York State will have to pay $25, seniors will be charged $17, and students $12 (admission for children under 12 will remain free). The pay-as-you-wish policy will remain in place for all residents of New York State as well as students from New Jersey and Connecticut. The museum will also change its ticketing policy so that ticket-holders will be able to use them at all the museum’s locations (Fifth Avenue, the Cloisters, and the Met Breuer) over the course of three days rather than just one day.
During a press conference at the Met this morning, Daniel Weiss, the museum’s president and chief operating officer, said the current admission policy is “no longer effective,” noting that in 2004, 63% of visitors paid full price, but last year only 17% of visitors did. In that time, the suggested adult admission more than doubled, from $12 in 2004 to $25 today. He added that admissions currently make up 14% of the museum’s budget, but once the new policy is in place they will provide closer to 16% or 17%.
“Every time you differentiate, it stinks of exclusivity,” Barry Klassen of Vancouver, who was visiting the Met today with his wife Cheryl, told Hyperallergic. He feels that the museum should not charge different prices for locals and tourists. Cheryl suggested that the Met should create membership programs for local residents instead.
“We feel this is a win for New York City,” said Tom Finkelpearl, the Commissioner of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs. Other speakers at today’s press conference, which coincided with a major snowstorm battering the East Coast, included New York City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Keith Powers, and Fred Dixon, the president and CEO of NYC & Company, the city’s marketing branch. “We don’t expect any impact at all on visitation to New York City,” Dixon said.
According to figures presented at this morning’s press conference, 37% of visitors to the Met are from outside the US, while 31% are New York City residents. Another 6% are from other parts of New York State, and the remaining 26% are from other US states.
“It shows a lack generosity,” Ilene Sunshine, a visitor at the Met on Thursday who lives in Manhattan, told Hyperallergic. “That’s what was so brilliant about Holly Block and the Bronx Museum, giving everyone access and changing the relationship in the community.” When told the Met’s reasoning behind the change, and how fewer people pay the suggested admission today than just a few years ago, Sunshine replied that if the suggested donation were reasonable, perhaps more people would be willing to pay it.
The new admission policy may also partly be intended to help make up the museum’s budget deficit, said to have reached $15 million during the tenure of the Met’s previous director, Thomas P. Campbell. Despite its financial turmoil, the institution set a new attendance record last year, with 7 million visitors.
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Correction: An earlier version of this report misspelled Ilene Sunshine’s name as Eilene Sunshine.