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What the Met's new admission policy says about art in America

Jan. 5, 2018
Avatar zoe allen writer.jpg2c676fc9 2a4a 48cb a392 f278501604bf

On January 4, The Metropolitan Museum of New York announced that it was abandoning its formerly egalitarian “pay what you wish” policy. Starting at the beginning of March, the museum will require a mandatory $25 admission fee for non-New York State residents, and the same suggested price for New York residents. 

I was shocked upon hearing the news—as a non-New Yorker and art aficionado, I find it deeply saddening to see such a valuable institution lessen its availability to the public. Many people already believe that art is for the affluent (which is understandable: a piece by Jean Michel Basquiat, an artist commonly seen as a people's champion in the art world, recently sold for $110.5 million). The Met is only strengthening their argument by charging a hefty sum upon entrance.  

For years, entrance to The Met cost less than an MTA ticket from Astor Place to 66th. Starting in March, tourists will pay the same price as a full tank of gas in a Mazda for the same experience.

via: Patsy M_/Flickr

And, yes, art is priceless—there is no doubt that the Met’s collection is worth the $25 fee. But the problem is that many cannot afford this fee. Art is often considered to be a luxury of the privileged because it is associated with having enough time and money to view or participate in the art. 

The Met’s motivation behind raising prices is understandable—in the most recent fiscal year, the museum registered a shortfall of about $10 million, and raising ticket prices should bring in $10-11 million a year, according to the New York Times. But even though the motives are reasonable, this does not change the fact that they are shutting their doors to many people with this policy change. 

Think of all the ten-year-old boys and girls whose minds will no longer wander and wonder at the site of the Met’s extensive Egyptian Wing. Imagine the decrease in awe as fewer people view the Manhattan skyline from the rooftop garden. There will be a dip in patriotism when fewer people have the opportunity to view Washington Crossing the Delaware, a cratering of amazement at Monet’s water lilies. 

Art is supposed to make you feel something. The Met’s collection makes people feel all sorts of emotions—emotions fewer and fewer people will get to experience due to this entrance fee. 

Why aren’t museums like libraries? They are institutions of learning, after all—sensory, visual, important learning. The public should be able to wander into a museum and gaze at art with the same ease as reading a book. Society considers the ability to read to be an essential skill, but visual literacy should be valued with the same importance. 

Museums should be available to all people. I suppose that The Met’s newfound exclusiveness is simply a reflection of the country that we live in—recently, it has become trendy to shut people out from all over the world. I was holding on to hope that precious institutions such as art museums wouldn’t fall prey to this elitist attitude, and although The Met is hiking up its prices, I still hope that other museums will not follow in suit.