Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fiscal Cliff: Museum Admission

In the political arena, all of this talk about a fiscal cliff brings to mind a possible impending doom through higher taxes and budget cuts for Americans in the new year. Some resolution must be reached by our leaders. But, the terms of that are yet undefined and might lead us to pause and think about how we spend our own funds. In terms of deficits and budget cuts, where are you willing to budge? What is "worth" an increase to you? What do you value?

Well, in the museum world, value and admission price are touchy topics, particularly given the new lawsuit against the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See here, here, and here. At issue is the Museum's fiscal policy for admission that offers a price, and in small print, defines that fee as suggested. The fee is steep - $25 - but when you consider what comes with that fee, the benefits seem to outweigh the costs by far.

However, two long-time members of the Met are suing the museum because of its fiscal policy for admission, and also, its supposed intent to deceive folks into believing that they HAVE to pay the recommended price (currently, $25).

Dr. Brill and Prof. Zakic enjoying a conversation
in front of Tom Coates' works.
Some of the comments made by readers of the articles linked above have pointed out some of the many tropes of the benevolence shown toward public services and cultural entities - that museums have benefitted from public funding and subsidies. This is undoubtedly true, but museums and cultural institutions, like the Met and our own galleries and collections, do face rising costs. Nor are they immune to inflation.

Other commenters have remarked at the murkiness of the fee structure - it's unclear to visitors not familiar with the miniscule font that reads "recommended" underneath the admission fee. Still, others have claimed that it shouldn't be a bother to pay what you wish. Responders have noted that those who do pay less get glares and snares from Met staff who seem to pass judgement upon those who choose - for whatever reason - not the pay for the full recommended admission fee.

Good art inspires conversation and reflection. 
I do agree with the premise of the lawsuit - that the Museum's recommended fee and language at the admission desk is unclear. While certainly the majority of folks will not refuse to visit the Met because of the lawsuit filed by Theodore Grunewald and Patricia Nicholson who want a court order barring the Museum from charging admission. The lawsuit may have an impact: there may be a few shy of 6 million visitors next year, to the Met perhaps. Well, that's possible, but highly unlikely.

And, it's best shared with fiends!

In light of all of these financial and litigious discussions, I encourage you to continue to patronize museums, galleries, and collections as you wish - and embrace those that truly remain free, such as our own collections: the outdoor Sculpture Collection, the Wilson and Cochenour Galleries, Gallery 108 (the new annex site in the LRC), and the Dr. Donald L. and Dorothy Jacobs Collection. We have art on view every day of the year, open and accessible 24/7 for you. For free! Really, truly FREE!

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