Well, I have some not so great news. You might have heard this already, but since we’ve covered The Metropolitan Museum of Art several times here on the blog, I want to be sure that all of my readers are aware of this big change. The Met’s pay as you wish policy has been in effect since 1970, but sadly, that policy will no longer exist for non-New Yorkers as of March 1, 2018. The pay-what-you-wish will not affect anyone who has a New York address (within the state) or students in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, and CT), but be sure to carry identification that includes your home address when you visit the museum. (You won’t be turned away, at least the first time, if you don’t have an ID.) But it will affect most everyone else.
Visitors from outside New York state will have to pay the $25 fee to gain access to The Met. That $25 will provide entrance to The Met Cloisters, The Met Breuer, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art for three days. Senior admission will stay at $17, students can enter for $12, and members, patrons, and children under 12 will still be free.
What has sparked the change to the Met’s pay as you wish? Apparently, attendance records have soared over the past 13 years from 4.7 to 7 million people visiting the museum annually. But the number of entrants who pay full admission is way down from 63 percent to 17 percent.
I realize that there are different thoughts on the Met’s pay as you wish. When I first learned of it, I didn’t know how I felt about paying less than the suggested admission. If I paid only $3, did that mean I was cheap? That I didn’t appreciate art or understand the value of an institution like The Met?
Not at all.
What I’ve come to realize is that forking over $25 isn’t always possible for a lot of museum-goers. And, I believe that many of The Met’s visitors do indeed frequent the institution because they can drop in for 30 minutes, an hour, or an afternoon and spend $5, $10, or less to do so. The beauty of this nearly 50-year-old policy is the availability of art for all, no matter their budget or bank account.
Should a family of four visiting from out of New York or out of the United States have to pay $100 to walk through The Met and view a single exhibit? Should a group of art students from outside the tri-state area have to spend $12 per person to enter?
I remember my days as an art student back in the early ’90s, also the first time I visited The Met. Coming up with $12 at that time was no small feat, and meant making a choice between eating dinner that day or reveling in the Modern and Contemporary Art gallery. I don’t know that much has changed from 25 years ago for many students and working families. The cost of living increases but wages don’t seem to catch up. And, everyone should be able to view world-class art.
In The New York Times, art critic Roberta Smith says, “So I 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.”
I guess I’m hoping that The Met will offer one day free, or one evening after a certain hour, like The Guggenheim does. Perhaps if the attendance drops off, the powers that be will consider featuring pay-as-you-wish one day per week.
What do you think about this new policy? Should the Met’s pay as you wish policy be kept in place? I’d love to know what you think. And if you’re from out of state, will you still visit The Met and pay the $25 admission?
Here’s the statement from the Met’s CEO, Daniel Weiss. And do read the comments that follow, which show arguments on both sides.
Also, read Alexandra Schwartz’s excellent piece about it in The New Yorker.
More on museums…