Saturday, January 06, 2018

Breaking News: Museums Charge Admission Fees (UPDATED)

Who knew?!

Just a couple of quick notes on the uproar over the Met announcing that it's going to start doing what every other museum already does (except less so -- their admission fee will only apply to out-of-state visitors).

1.  First, the argument that, as Roberta Smith put it in the Times, "we shouldn't have to pay to see art in museums whose nonprofit status is supported by our taxes" obviously applies with equal force to all museums, not just the Met.  So where are the protests against MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Whitney, etc. etc.?

2.  A similar claim sometimes pops up in the deaccessioning debate, but nonprofit status simply doesn't do the work its meant to do in arguments like that.  Most theater companies and dance companies have nonprofit status.  Should their performances be free?  Private schools have nonprofit status.  Is it improper for them to charge tuition?  Hospitals have nonprofit status.  And on and on.  There may be good arguments against the Met's decision here, but its nonprofit status is not one of them.

The NYT editorial board points out that the "the new system is in line with prices charged at some other institutions, like the Museum of Modern Art" and says the new policy "is as understandable as it is regrettable."

The Art Market Monitor is not impressed with Smith's (and Holland Cotter's) piece (he calls it "a contradictory set of emotionally-driven politically-naive opinions").

UPDATE:  Brian Frye points out (correctly, I think) that there is a kind of "endowment effect" in play here.