At the beginning of the year, the Met announced that it would begin charging non-New Yorkers (i.e. those without a state ID) $25 for admission, waiving its pay-what-you-wish policy that had been in effect since 1970. And as of today, that policy is officially being implemented through signs at all entrances, 14 new kiosks in the Great Hall, roaming museum staff with iPads, and a brochure that explains the new fee system, reports the Times.
When the Met put its pay-as-you-wish policy into effect nearly 50 years ago, it was one of the very few museums to do so. However, Daniel Weiss, president and chief executive officer of the Met, said that the new policy is necessary because “people assume that The Met is free when, in fact, it depends on the support of its visitors to open its doors every day.” To that end, over the last 13 years, despite attendance growing from 4.7 to 7 million, those who pay the “suggested” donation has dropped from 63 to just 17 percent. And the average person contributed between $9 and $16, still less than the suggestion. Admission currently makes up 14 percent, or $43 million, of the Met’s $305 million annual operating budget, but the new policy which the Met estimates will impact 31 percent of visitors, will increase that amount to roughly $49 million a year.
The new policy has faced its fair share of disapproval. In fact, shortly after the announcement, a petition went live to keep the museum free for all. It currently has 27,655 of its 30,000 signature goal. Artist Ai Weiwei likened it to “taking the jacket off a poor person.” He said, “I will never go to the Metropolitan. Am I calling for a boycott? No. But I myself will not go.” Chicago-based artist and architect Amanda Williams agreed: “What are we valuing in this difficult political and economic moment? And for young people, especially little black and brown bodies, they are receiving more and more messages that they don’t belong.”
But nonetheless, the Met remains committed to the fact that the change is necessary for its future survival. So far, more than 20,000 Met employees, from the main 5th Avenue location, the Cloisters in Washington Heights, and the Met Breuer, have been trained in “customer service techniques as well as communications and technical issues” as related to the new policy. The new ticket will be good for three days at any of the three locations. Students with a valid ID from a university in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut will still be able to pay what they wish. Students from elsewhere will be charged $12 and seniors $17.