Last Thursday January 4th 2018, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York announced the termination of its “pay-as-you-wish” policy for non New York State residents. As a result, they will find themselves forced to pay a 25 dollars entrance fee. Such a significant news provoked virulent critics from the both the Art and cultural world. But what are the questions raised by this controversy?
The MET and its visitors: between high attendance rates and revenue’ cuts
Starting on March 1st, 2018 the MET’s new admission policy will apply to all visitors. Therefore, non New York State residents will have to pay 25 dollars to visit the international institution. For the rest of the visitors, the “pay-as-you-wish” policy remains. Such a decision comes at a time of tense climate for the museum which has recently faced a series of trials. Effectively, the charges were denouncing the confusion that could provoke the terms “suggested” and “recommended” juxtaposed to the donation suggested to the visitors until now. Moreover, the percentage of visitors giving the “suggested” donation dropped from 63% in 2004 to 17% today. On top of that, the MET’s current goal is to eliminate in 2020 its 10 million dollars deficit which threatens its finances’ balance. Finally, it is also a way to react to the cuts in public funding from the city. As n owner of the property on which the museum is built, the city used to give 26 million dollars to the institution to finance security and bills
The MET’s decision provoked a general outcry
President and Executive Director of the New Yorker institution Daniel Weiss said that the system has “basically failed”. Holland Cotter and Roberta Smith, both Art critics at the New York Times, reacted by publishing a biting article. In fact, according to them, if the MET has been facing a significant drop in its attendance rates of visitors paying the “suggested” fee since 2004, it is mainly because of their inefficient communication strategy. Effectively, they stated in the article: “So hire a really good design firm to formulate some kind of counter campaign, signage with tons of jokes cajoling people who have the means to pay the suggested fee”. In addition, both journalists point out the fact that such a policy is more likely to worsen social and ethic discriminations. Still in the same article, they said they were “worry that the Met’s plan is classist, and nativist. It divides people into categories — rich and poor, native and foreign — which is exactly what this country does not need right now.”
The debate behind the controversy
Behind the clash of ideas and the chaos the MET’s announcement provoked, two fundamental debates remain. Indeed, there is the question of free entrance in museums for everybody on one side. On the other side there the question whether its relation to audience diversification. Even though free admission is a virtous system, it still needs to be implemented through new financial strategies. Smartly executed, such a policy enables the Fine Arts market to break down from its conventions. Nevertheless, like Colleen Dilenschneider from IMPACTS agency in her report entitled “How Free Admission Really Affects Museum Attendance”, the link between free admission and audience diversity is not automatic. It often encourages visitors already used to come to museums to come back more often. As a result, it is necessary to enforce new legislations and actions both in the private and public sectors to diversify the audience. In that context, Art-Trope is implementing innovative technologies as well as services adapted to worldwide Artists needs to open the access to the international Fine Arts market. As a result, Art-Trope centralizes all the Artists technological and career development services needs on a unique platform. It is the facilitator of the international Fine Arts market.
Read our article about 3 cities = 3 exhibitions to start 2018 here.