According to the Los Angeles Times, the decision took eight months to implement due to various changes to the museum’s infrastructure to accommodate for expected increased attendance, including hiring more security guards and gallery attendants. The cost of a ticket to special exhibitions, however, will raise from $15 to $18. “It allows for exhibitions that we otherwise couldn’t organize, couldn’t afford and couldn’t share,” Biesenbach told the Los Angeles Times. There will be performances, music, workshops, and food on opening day. Read the full story here.
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Wow! I was aware of this idea, the aspiration of Mr Biesenbach and the statements of Ms Powers when the original announcements were made. I thought they made no sense then, and they still make no sense.
Powers is on record stating ‘… diversity, inclusiveness and openness of spirit’ as values integral at MOCA … in justifying her underwriting of admission charges for a multi-year period. Free admission will just attract more affluent and middle class white people – there is no statistical evidence supporting the idea that free admission will attract more African Americans, Hispanic / Latinos, Asians, Native Americans etc .. Affluent white people are the last group in society who need more freebies. The real perception is that public museums are for white people, full of art made by white people of white people; African American families, generally, do not wake up on a Sunday morning and say, ‘hey kids, let’s head to the museum’. I believe Kerry James Marshall is on record stating an observation similarly characterised.
Ms Powers and Mr Biesenbach have stated that MOCA generates around $2m pa from general admission charges. Her $10m donation plans to cover this projected income for a five year period.
Mr Biesenbach said at the time of the announcement ‘we are not aiming at having more visitors or larger attendance, but we’re aiming at being more accessible …’. MOCA is the only public museum in the US on record aiming for no increase in visitor numbers over the coming years! Mr Biesenbach is the only Director of a public museum in the US who does not want to increase the number of visitors to the institution. The Trustees are asleep at the wheel for approving this strategic goal.
Ms Powers has made a great deal for herself. If for some bizarre reason visitor numbers did increase, although not a strategic goal of the leadership, say, by 10-15% during this period she will have saved herself more than $1m and of course the institution will not benefit at all during this period from any increase in visitor numbers. This whole idea is perverse – it drives a total lack of real aspiration. It enables an acceptance of a total lack of progress. Wow!
Additionally, if we believe that scrutiny of donors – the source of their wealth for instance – is trending within the public museum sector this strategy only makes the institution even more dependant on this volatile and vulnerable income stream.
The approval of this strategy by the executive leadership, rubber stamped by the Trustees points towards the key challenge for public museums at the beginning of this century. There is unfortunately a busted status quo, but this status quo was designed / evolved by parties that control and benefit from this reality.
This sector is ready for ‘disruption’.
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