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20 Mar 2018

Campaign group calls on Met to introduce "inclusive" sliding entry scale
BY Tom Anstey

The Met recently introduced a flat US$25 rate for visitors from outside of New York State

The Met recently introduced a flat US$25 rate for visitors from outside of New York State
photo: Shutterstock.com

Following a recent entry fee hike for New York’s Met museum, it has been suggested that the world-renowned art institution should introduce a more inclusive entry system – using a sliding ticket scale based on visitor income.

Earlier this month, the Met changed its ticketing policy, keeping a decades-long standing pay-as-you-wish fee for visitors from inside the state, but charging out of state and overseas visitors a flat rate of US$25 (€20, £17.80).

The museum’s finances are covered, in large part, by the city of New York – not paying rent and being funded with tax dollars. That funding, however, is still not enough to cover operating costs, with the number of visitors choosing to pay full admission declining by 73 per cent since 2004. An average voluntary contribution to the Met per visitor is US$9 (€7.30, £6.40).

Daniel Weiss, who was named president and CEO of the Met last June following a leadership shakeup, was tasked with getting the institution’s finances in order after the museum delayed its US$600m (€487.2m, £428.1m) plans to redevelop its southwest wing by as long as seven years.

“People have become very comfortable with the idea of the pay-what-you-wish policy,” said Weiss, speaking to The Guardian.

“Nobody was happy with the announcement because it isn’t that kind of announcement – but the policy has effectively failed and therefore, needs to change. In every society and throughout history, excellence costs money.”

Campaign group Towards Equitable Met Ticketing (TEMT) argues that the new policy is exclusive of lower-earning people, and that the flat fee will “cut off communities that the Met seeks to serve — especially marginalised and low-income out-of-state visitors and undocumented individuals.”

The TEMT proposal suggests a sliding scale of recommended payment tiers from US$0-US$35 (€28.50, £25), applied to all visitors, in-state and out. Visitors will then have the option to pay as they wish, in accordance with this scale or not, however ticket prices should be “explicitly recommended”.

“The Met’s value is not universal: it reflects its affluent, largely white, founders and donors,” said a TEMT statement.

“The Met needs the time, insight, and labor of underserved communities in order to fulfill its commitment to ‘reach out to the widest possible audience in a spirit of inclusiveness’. Sliding scale pricing recognises these unaccounted costs and contributions, moving toward a more inclusive and equitable system.”

The newly-introduced admissions policy from the Met aims to raise ticket revenue by up to US$11m (€9m, £7.8m) each year. For 2016-2017, Met revenue was US$41.7m (€33.9m, £29.7m) – a figure proportionally slower than its operating costs. According to research conducted by TEMT, introduction of a sliding scale based on visitor metrics would surpass the Met’s high end goal, with US$53m (€43m, £37.8m) in revenue generated.

TEMT has partnered with Gradient on the proposal – a startup developing an e-commerce tool that allows sliding scale payments. The policy does have a drawback, in that visitors would not have to show proof of income, meaning higher earners wouldn’t necessarily pay the suggested amount. The calculations take this into account, with Gradient’s Kevin Weisner saying that visitors will be less inclined to “cheat” the system if they understand the larger economic picture.

“This type of sliding scale should force some to consider their economic privilege, and we don’t think that is a bad thing,” he said, speaking to Fast Company.

The team’s next plan is to garner support for the project, collecting public signatures and then laying out the proposal to the Met, which could act as a template for other museums or even places such as restaurants to follow.

For more on Towards Equitable Met Ticketing, click here.



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