Following director Thomas P. Campbell’s resignation in February and a recent wave of layoffs to prevent a ballooning multimillion deficit from growing, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is discussing whether to charge admission to people visiting from outside of the state, Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times reports.
Ben Sarle, a spokesman for Mayor de Blasio, confirmed that the leaders of the institution were weighing the option. He said, “We are still waiting to see the proposed plan between the Met and our department of cultural affairs. The Met is one of our most beloved, historic New York cultural institutions, and we are ready to work with them to make sure they have the resources they need to thrive.”
The museum currently has suggested admission prices—$25 for adults, $17 for senior citizens, and $12 for students (children are free)—but many visitors don't pay. At the end of the 2016 fiscal year, the museum found that only 13 percent of its overall revenue, about $39 million, was raised through ticket sales. If admission fees were required the institution would earn millions more.
As a result of the museum’s $10 million deficit—which was projected to reach $40 million if the institution didn’t change gears—the Met enforced a hiring freeze, postponed the building of its new $600 million modern and contemporary art wing, and reduced the number of annual exhibitions it organized to forty from sixty. While charging visitors admission is one way to increase revenue and maintain financial stability, the move may adversely affect the institution’s reputation as a public institution that has been free to the public for more than a century.
The Met welcomes roughly seven million visitors every year. Sixty-three percent of those visitors are from outside New York state. Whether the museum will decide to narrow the number of people eligible for free admission further by limiting it to only residents of New York City is still up in the air. Doing so could potentially cause intense indignation from people who commute to the city from New Jersey, Connecticut, and upstate New York.
Another concern for the institution is whether the city would reduce the amount of money allocated annually. The Met receives $26 million from the city, the largest sum given to an arts institution. Yet, the monies only fund 8 percent of the Met’s $332 million operating costs. Daniel H. Weiss, the Met’s president and acting chief executive officer, said that the museum is “looking at everything to bridge our budget deficit,” and emphasized that these talks are still in the early stages.