The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new admissions policy went into effect today (1 March), putting an end to its long-standing “pay-what-you-wish” entry for all museum visitors. The suggested donation now only applies to New York residents and Tri-State area students, leaving everyone else to pay $25 for general admission.
The museum prepared for any confusion by installing a plethora of informational signage, as well as staff carrying iPads on hand to sell tickets or direct visitors to the galleries. And either because of these efforts, or the fact that the new policy rolled out on a weekday, the Met’s Great Hall this afternoon was no more crowded than usual. Although it was perhaps a less congenial space, as metal queue barriers replaced the old wooden benches.
Outside, most museum-goers we interviewed responded to the change with a shrug. Daniel and Chelsea (who asked that their last names not be used) from Louisville, Kentucky had been unaware of the “pay-what-you-wish” policy until they were asked about it after their visit. They noted they had already spent three to four hours in the galleries. “We haven’t even hit half of it,” Daniel said. “I think it’s well worth $25.”
However, it may all boil down to one’s expectations. Visitors from outside the US responded less enthusiastically. “In Ireland, the museums don’t charge anything, so we’re not used to it,” said Margaret Rooney from Dungarvan. “It’s a little disappointing.” Some were more critical, such as the artist Ai Weiwei, who told the New York Times it was “like taking the jacket off a poor person. If they do this, I will never go to the Met. Am I calling for a boycott? No. But I myself will not go.”