NEW YORK – The Metropolitan Museum of Art, likely high in the list of ‘The Best Things in the World are Free’ for many regular visitors – who revel in the mind boggling 5,000 years of art treasures and exhibitions from around the world in the gargantuan two million square feet of space, apart from the separate Met Breuer and the Cloisters museum buildings which fall under its aegis in New York City – will charge a mandatory fee of $25 for all non-New Yorker adult visitors, beginning March 1, 2018.
The move to clamp down on the pay-as-you-wish policy at counters that has been in effect since 1970 because the museum on Fifth Avenue is located on City-owned land, has been brewing since last year. The New York Times reported early last year that the museum was running a nearly $40 million deficit.
The New Yorker reported that construction on a major new wing for modern and contemporary art, which was estimated to cost $600 million, and was intended to open in 2020, the year of the museum’s 150th anniversary, was indefinitely postponed.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has been an avid fan of mandatory pricing for visitors. He told the Times in an interview: “I’m a big fan of Russian oligarchs paying more to get into the Met.”
According to the new rule, to be implemented from March 1, mandatory admission for visitors from outside New York State will match the current suggested admissions prices: $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, and $12 for students. Admission for all children under 12 will remain free; students from New Jersey and Connecticut will come under the existing pay-as-you-wish rule. Special exhibitions, guided tours, and gallery talks will also continue to be free with museum admission. Full-price tickets will include entry to the Met Breuer and the Cloisters museums too, for three consecutive days.
The Met projects that the updated policy will affect 31 percent of all museum visitors.
“The Met will continue to serve all of New York and our visitors from around the nation and the world for generations to come,” said Daniel H. Weiss, President and CEO of The Met, in a statement.
For the first year of this revised policy, the Met’s Board of Trustees will provide funding to enable this access.
Fred Dixon, President and CEO of NYC & Co, reasoned in a statement on the new policy for Met, which has grown to become the largest art museum in the world and the most visited tourist attraction in New York City: “We feel that visitation to the City will continue to thrive despite a move to charge admission to tourists at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This pricing approach is also not uncommon. Given that there is already reduced admission at The Met for seniors, students, and children, by any measure, the $25 admission fee is still an extraordinary value to access the world’s greatest encyclopedic collection of art.”
Each of New York City’s other large museums either requires mandatory admission for all visitors or charges for special exhibitions (and some do both). The Met’s global peers, including the Smithsonian museums and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., receive large percentages of their funding from government sources.
In 2017, The Met received just 10 percent of its annual $305 million budget from New York City, the majority of which was earmarked for utility costs for the building and a smaller percentage for payroll for security and buildings staff. Under this new policy, City support for the Museum may be reduced by up to $3 million annually, based on the amount of additional revenue generated from admissions.
In recent years, the Museum has experienced a significant decline in revenue generated per visitor under the pay-as-you-wish policy. In 2004, 63 percent of visitors contributed the full suggested admission. Today, only 17 percent of adults pay the full amount: a 73 percent decline. The average per-person contribution has also fallen to $9, the Met stated.
The museum estimates the revised policy will increase admissions revenue as a percentage of The Met’s overall budget by 2 to 3 percent. The Met’s internal research indicates that four out of five will be tourists from outside the tri-state area or from overseas who spend an average of $1,200 per person on their trips to New York. Furthermore, 41 percent of visitors pay no admissions when they visit The Met because they are members or are with groups or are children under 12, and 14 percent enter on discounted passes such as City Pass. Thirty percent of Met visitors are from New York City, and 6 percent are from New York State areas outside the City.
The Met’s revised admissions policy is similar to plans adopted by other major museums in the United States that offer discounts to local visitors with proof of residence, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. In New York City, the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum and the New York Botanical Garden also offer discounts to local visitors.
The Met is preparing a list of forms of identification that it will accept as proof of New York State residence or Tri-state student status, including IDNYC, library cards, and current bills with a New York State mailing address.
PRIEST’S CROWNS OF NEPAL
For those who suddenly feel the zeal to take in the museum’s beautiful artworks – before the March 1 expensive family outing proposition kicks into effect, recommended is the new exhibition of the Vajracharya priest’s crowns of Nepal, located in the South Asian exhibition gallery.
The ‘Crowns of the Vajra Masters: Ritual Art of Nepal’ includes five crowns—the largest group ever displayed, evoking the five transcendent Buddhas. This will be the first-ever exhibition to celebrate this unique tradition in Nepalese Buddhism.
Both a caste name and priestly title, Vajracharya translates as ‘thunderbolt scepter [vajra] master,’ the vajra being the quintessential symbol of the Vajrayana system of esoteric Buddhism.
The crowns date from the 13th to the 18th century, and the exhibition examines their devotional use, iconography, and stylistic evolution. It will also consider how the crowns preserve the memory of early Indian Buddhist practices that otherwise would be lost to us; these practices can be traced back to the fifth century and the great mural paintings of Ajanta. They are augmented by Nepalese paintings and ritual objects that were used to perform Vajrayana rituals.
AICON GALLERY EXHIBITION
For those who like art from the subcontinent, ‘Born of Fire |A Tale for our Times,’ an exhibition of works by the artist Jayasri Burman will be on display at the Aicon Gallery, in New York City, from January 19-February 24, 2018.
The Calcutta-born Burman, who has studied printmaking in Paris, and now lives and works in India, has an extended family of renowned artists, including husband Paresh Maity, and uncle Sakti Burman who lives and works in France.