The Metropolitan Museum of Art is considering charging admission to visitors from outside of New York in hopes of alleviating a significant budget deficit. Though the Met famously boasts a "suggested admission" thanks to an agreement with the city, the Times reports museum officials are trying to get the city to alter that deal to close the gap on the approximately $15 million deficit.
Visitors to the Met can pay whatever they want as part of an 1893 law that offered the museum state funds in exchange for free admission, though they do advertise a $25 "suggested" ticket fee (which was the subject of a lawsuit in the past). But in 2013, the Met signed an amendment to its lease with the city that allows it to renegotiate its pay-as-you-wish policy should it require more money.
Considering recent revelations about the museum's multimillion dollar deficit, it appears that time is now. City officials say they've spoken to the Met about potentially charging admission to tourists, while locals would still be able to pay a suggested admission. "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," mayoral spokesman Ben Sarle said in a statement today.
In February, Met director Thomas P. Campbell resigned, and in the wake of his departure, staffers revealed he and the museum's top executives and board of trustees mismanaged the museum (Campbell was also accused of having an "inappropriate relationship" with a staff member to whom he allotted "power well beyond her rank," according to the Times). The museum subsequently had to cut down its number of annual exhibitions from nearly 60 to 40, laid off staff, and postponed building a new wing, among other cost-cutting measures.
Currently, the Met's suggested admissions fee covers about 13 percent of the museum's annual revenue, and they expect making that $25 fee mandatory for tourists would net them millions of dollars. The city, which contributes about 8 percent of the Met's budget, may then redirect its funds toward other public art projects. “Whatever we do is going to be collaborative and mutually supportive,” Met president Daniel H. Weiss said. “All we’re doing is exploring.”
Other museums with pay-as-you-wish ticketing include the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum, MoMA PS1, and the Museum of the City of New York.