Thursday, July 13, 2006


The Met: Almost Free If You Want It to Be

Come Aug. 1, the Metropolitan Museum will cost you $20, but only if you want it to. You got a problem with that?

Carol Vogel, in today's NY Times, implies that the Met tried to sneak one by us by announcing the increase to arts editors "with little fanfare." (Next time, Philippe, please hire the Canadian Brass.)

The Met's enlightened admission policy says that you can pay whatever you want, as long as you pay something. The fact that the fee is "suggested" is posted at the cash register. Children under 12 and members are free; suggested admission for seniors and students is $10. (Full disclosure: Thanks to my press pass, I freeload all over town. Suggested journalists fee: $100?)

If people feel "intimidated" by this suggested fee, as suggested by one Jane Kaplowitz, quoted in the Times, they should get assertiveness training. What you pay is up to you.

When Philippe retires (some time in 2050), I suspect that the Met will begin to follow the standard museum practice of charging substantial extra fees for important special exhibitions. If I'm still blogging then, I'll lament that change: Blockbuster surcharges discourage some people from seeing those exhibitions, and they make loan shows seem more important than the permanent collection.

The Met's operating deficit was $3.4 million in fiscal 2005, an improvement from the $4.8 million in fiscal 2004 but still troubling. The last increase in the suggested admission fee---to the current $15---occurred in January 2005. That did help to reduce the size of the deficit, but more effective solutions (a big boost in the endowment from a stock-market rally, perhaps?) are urgently needed.

Next: Eavesdrop on a past colloquy about admission fees by the two director-members of the "$20 Club."

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