It was a tightwad’s best secret—the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) had only a “suggested” admission price, not a mandatory one. On January 4, it was announced that the policy would be rescinded and a mandatory admission fee would be charged beginning March 1.
The updated policy, which received approval from New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, will keep pay-as-you-wish admission for residents of New York state and students from New Jersey and Connecticut. Mandatory admission for visitors from outside New York state will match the current suggested admissions prices: $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, and $12 for students. Admission for all children under 12 will remain free. Special exhibitions, guided tours, and gallery talks will also continue to be free with museum admission.
A press release from the Met projects that the updated policy will affect 31% of all museum visitors. Of those visitors, internal research indicates that four out of five will be tourists from outside the tristate area or from overseas who spend an average of $1200 per person on their trips to New York City. Forty-one percent of visitors pay no admission when they visit the Met because they are members, are with groups, or are children under 12, and 14% enter on discounted passes such as CityPASS. Thirty percent of Met visitors are from New York City, and 6% are from New York state areas outside the city.
The Met will honor full-price admission tickets for three consecutive days, giving visitors more time to experience each of the museum’s three locations.
The museum is extending the pay-as-you-wish policy to students from New Jersey and Connecticut so that all tristate students may have access to the Met. For the first year of this revised policy, the Met’s board of trustees will provide funding to enable this access. “Introducing the next generation to art and cultural heritage is at the core of the Met’s mission, and we’re honored to be able to help ensure that all area students can visit, learn, and engage with the museum as they would like,” said Daniel Brodsky, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees. The museum will seek philanthropic support to fund this student program in future years.
The museum’s current suggested-admissions model was created in 1970. New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs reviews all admissions policy changes because the Met’s Fifth Avenue building resides on city-owned land.
According to the Met, all of New York City’s other large museums either require mandatory admission for all visitors or charge for special exhibitions (and some do both). The Met’s global peers, including the Smithsonian museums and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., receive large percentages of their funding from government sources. In 2017 the Met received just 10% of its annual $305 million budget from New York City; the majority of this was earmarked for utility costs for the building and a smaller percentage for payroll for security and buildings staff. Under this new policy, city support for the museum may be reduced by up to $3 million annually, based on the amount of additional revenue generated from admissions.
In recent years, the museum has experienced a significant decline in revenue generated per visitor under the pay-as-you-wish policy. In 2004, 63% of visitors contributed the full suggested admission. Today only 17% of adults pay the full amount: a 73% decline. The average per-person contribution has also fallen to $9.
In 2017 the Met generated roughly 14% of its operating budget from admissions revenue; this percentage is among the lowest of its New York City peers (which ranged up to 31% in 2016). The museum estimates that the revised policy will increase admissions revenue as a percentage of the Met’s overall budget by 2% to 3%.
Originally published in the February 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest