MoMA Increases Admission Fees, No One Likes It

by Paddy Johnson on July 28, 2011 · 19 comments Newswire

I have to wonder at what point museum admission prices will become too high to attract crowds. MoMA announced today they will increase their ticket prices this from 20 dollars to 25, following The Metropolitian’s lead in early June. They too raised their admissions to $25, though that museum at least uses a suggested donation model. The MoMA offers only four and a half free hours a week (every Friday 4pm-8:30pm). I wish the museum well, but at this point surely they risk losing more 20 dollar visitors than they will gain from those willing to pay the extra five or the membership.

I hate to say it, but for me, visiting the museum isn’t worth as much money as MoMA’s charging. After all, it’s not like the quality of their shows has increased so exponentially that the ticket price is justified. Not withstanding that 2009 Tim Burton show of course, which was in no way, shape, or form put together for foot traffic over say, artistic merit.


All of twitter

Gothamist – The nuts and bolts

Forbes – Uh, What? Jon Bruner thinks the only people who pay the $25 dollars are European tourists. He hasn’t read Tyler Green.

The Awl – Choire Sicha says newspapers realize there’s only so much they can squeeze out of their customer base, and MoMA should too. I’m not sure I buy the idea that corporate sponsorship is the way to go though. It’s pretty easy to end up with safe shows when museums have to worry about pleasing conservative entities.



stylembe July 29, 2011 at 1:17 am

Maybe attendance to the museum fell drastically after 2009’s Tim Burton show. I’m sure that particular exhibition knocked MoMA from its pedestal as an important international art destination . Perhaps they are desperate to re-coop any post-Burton financial losses.

Anonymous July 29, 2011 at 1:54 am

That show was received some of their highest attendance numbers! It’s annoying that pandering actually works.  

stylembe July 29, 2011 at 2:45 am

Pandering succeeds in a fleeting way and affects a museum’s reputation in the process. Tim Burton at MoMA still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. So too, Guggenheim’s Giorgio Armani and Guggenheim Bilbao’s The Art of the Motorcycle. Sad that these museums feel the need to resort to such money makers. Who knows, maybe a huge pandering blockbuster exhibition on ‘crafting’ isn’t too far off.

Douglas July 29, 2011 at 6:16 am

i thought i read something about a Pixar show coming up as well…

moneymuffin July 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I am sure they worked out the financials and didn’t just arbitrarily decide to go with the $5 raise.
“Surely they risk losing more 20 dollar visitors than they will gain from those willing to pay the extra five or the membership…” – this is just arbitrary (and almost certainly inaccurate) speculation.

The moma is still a great museum, everyone panders. Get a membership and pay a penny at the met to recoup your loss.

Anonymous July 29, 2011 at 4:02 pm

If you were to say “everyone steals”, that wouldn’t make it alright. Museums in this city could produce better shows. 

Anyway, yes, I was speculating — perhaps unwisely as I didn’t crunch any numbers before concluding that this will present a problem for them  — but it’s not like “I’m sure they worked out the financials” is such a fool-proof argument either. Institutions and companies can make mistakes even with a lot of number crunching. Look at all the newspapers that have experimented with paywalls and failed. It’s not like they didn’t do the numbers first. 

In any event, on my income, I would have to make a lot of sacrifices to visit the museum more than a couple times a year. I don’t think people should have to do that. 

HHalle July 29, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Both the Met and now MoMA have raised their admissions because their operational costs—salaries, upkeep on infrastructure, etc—are going up, along with the costs of mounting shows. The latter have gotten so out of hand, especially insurance on loans, that both institutions have been relying more on collection exhibits. Meanwhile, rather than stay away in protest over higher admissions, visitors have been flocking to both places. The Met just announced it had one of its biggest years ever in terms of foot traffic. So where is the incentive to keeping ticket prices down? My prediction is that museum admissions will continue to go up, especially after MoMA completes its latest expansions, i.e., taking over the AFAM building as well as the planned move into the upcoming Nouvel-designed tower next door. And just wait until the Whitney settles into its new building. I wouldn’t be surprised if within five years admissions were in the $40–$50 range.

Anonymous July 29, 2011 at 7:01 pm

$40-$50 seems so obscene to me, but if you believe art can offer a higher experience, (whatever that means) perhaps the price will actually make more sense to people. I wonder what’s changed so significantly over the last couple of years though that has made people want to visit museums in such numbers. Is the marketing better? Is more cultural capital afforded to those who visit because they can now post their pictures on facebook? Why? 

Will Brand July 29, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Who says “higher experience” costs money? Sex, church, and the library are all free. Generally what costs money is being surrounded by things that cost a lot of money. 

Anonymous July 29, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Sex is only free if you don’t care if you get pregnant, the church takes up collection and Toronto is trying to ensure no one ever uses its libraries any more by privatizing them. But I agree with the core of your argument so maybe I don’t need nitpick. Being around things that cost a lot of money also usually costs money. 

Tamsen Schwartzman August 2, 2011 at 11:10 am

i wish i could back what you’ve said here Will, but in our contemporary society, I have to agree with artfagcity. Sex and the church aren’t free. And the libraries are paid for by the government, your tax dollars, but if the Tea Party has their way, those won’t exist anymore.

Hhalle July 30, 2011 at 11:54 am

A couple of things here I think account for the surge in interest in art. For one thing, people overall are more comfortable with Modernism, because they’ve lived with it now for such a long time. (I’m not, of course, talking about Red State or Islamist nuts, or their cultural equivalent, of which there are more than just a few.)
And I’m not just referring to the fact that the notion of Picasso’s genius has been bruited about for so long that it’s automatically accepted by most: next year marks the centennial of Duchamp’s first “Readymade.” When an idea like that is around long enough, people accept it, especially when their betters repeatedly insist on the idea’s importance.
By the same token, artists have been increasingly using tropes borrowed from commercial media or production for almost that long. Even back in the ’60s, people on some level got the soup can, regardless of whether they resisted the idea of it being art. And now? The problem is on the other foot. Nobody argues whether or not Marclay’s The Clock is art: they argue whether or not it’s just a glorified YouTube mash-up.
So there’s been this kind of vector. Popular culture has informed art, and art has informed popular culture. And this has been aide and abetted by the fact that art education has become widespread: The art history 101 slide class has been a veritable rite of passage for a lot of people in college, even if they are not art majors, or anything close. (It’s an easy C, or B if you’re paying the remotest amount of attention.) But some of that information sticks.
And overall, cultural has become more visual and less literary. Movies, TV, DVDs, the web, digital cameras, and now, iPhones and iPads: people are just more acculturated to thinking visually. (I mean, it gets ridiculous; a New Yorker cover from a while back made fun of the propensity to take photos of a painting in a museum, instead of just looking at the damn thing.)  So it adds up. And at even $40–$50 a pop, a museum visit would still be a much better deal than going to a B’way theater.

Hhalle July 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm

umm addendum. The Readymade’s centennial is actually 1913, if you count the Bicycle Wheel; Duchamp created it in his Paris studio that year. He didn’t actually coin the term until his first visit to New York, two years later .

Claire Sexton August 1, 2011 at 4:48 pm

$40-50 is crazy. Art museums are for the public and something that costs $40 makes it completely inaccessible to a large portion of the public. $20 is still high enough to make a difference, as is that extra $5. I suspect their membership rolls will increase considerably. Maybe that’s what they’re hoping for with the losing entries over the extra $5? The ability to pay one fee a year and have free entry to pop in for whatever show is really great, I have to say.
There will always be the people who will go no matter what it costs, and maybe that’s what Forbes meant with the European tourists bit? (haven’t read it yet though)

Jennifer Chan July 30, 2011 at 3:16 am

That sucks. To be more subtle the MoMA probably could have copied the Tate and installed lots of cute/interactive/poppy/flashygeometric donation boxes on each floor. Or they could charge the extra $5 on bag+coatcheck instead. Well I guess the donation boxes cost money to make, but they could always just ask emerging artists to design them in a social media competition. 

mike July 30, 2011 at 10:04 am

membership is still only $75.  a dual membership is less than double that at $120.  members enjoy greater benefits at MoMA, and it’s been the way to go since it reopened after the renovation.  this may seem expensive, but over the course of fifty-two weeks is one of the best cultural bargains in nyc, shit like tim burton notwithstanding. members can bring a guest for a mere five bucks, attend films, previews, etc.  i saw both the ab-ex survey and the matisse exhibition three times each, brought a friend for every visit, and easily recouped my yearly fee.  remember, it only takes a little coin and maybe some imagination to beat the institution by sharing a membership among friends.

artowl August 1, 2011 at 6:44 pm

I think those new prices are obscene.  But artists, remember, it’s really easy to get a FREE membership to MOMA as an artist.  Not sure of the rule, but it’s something like simply showing them some documentation of a show or activity.  Do it, and lend your card to non-artist friends.

Dave Harper August 2, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Getting an artist membership is easier said than done. They don’t publicize it and you need more than just documentation that you make art including print materials from solo shows and a CV among other things. Totally worth it if you can get it. Regular membership prices are actually going up to $85 for an individual but if you go more than 4 times a year, its pretty worth it and guest tix are still $5…

Sean August 2, 2011 at 3:23 am

They were screening all of the Pixar films back in July, is that what you mean?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: