MoMA Raises Price Again, Slits Own Throat Again

On September 1, walk-in admission for adults at New York’s Museum of Modern Art goes from $20 to $25, from $12 to $14 for students. Art lovers under 16 are still free, and here’s the press release.

First, transparency: yours truly has done and still does freelance work for the museum. Yet I’m sure you know where I come down on this. MoMA is a business, a not-for-profit business to be sure, but still, a business should never chase customers away. Perhaps its tax-exemption should be applied on a sliding scale: the higher the price of admission, the more MoMA should pay.

Fees were last raised in 2004, and I wrote a column about it for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where I worked. That delightful institution doesn’t offer free links (great way to keep its good journalism out there), but the piece also ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune, and I’m grateful that its link is available. My argument hasn’t changed.

Though why the Union-Trib uppercased the “v” in “van Gogh” is beyond me.


  1. says

    I did not exactly haunt museums as a young person, but indeed, I transitioned from tradesman to artist because of what I saw in various of those blockbuster institutions. Your piece in the Union-Tribune, which I had not seen before today, is right on it. The gang of Meret Oppenheim, Cliff Westerman, and Marchand du Sel (Given: The Illuminating Gaz) kidnapped me one dark night and after having their way with me, dumped me out of their car an excited artist. In those days I wouldn’t have thought “Gee, let me saunter on over to Castelli and see what’s new”.
    Thanks, Jeff.

  2. says

    When I read the news, I though about the many people who are on the skids financially. In troubled times, raising admission looks like closing the door to the middle and lower classes. Or maybe they just want everyone to become a subscriber?
    I don’t know what their thinking is, but I don’t see it panning out.


  3. James E. Donahue says

    They will not be getting ANY of my $$$$. so that’s about $80.. a year they can forget about.

  4. George Bacon says

    Slits its throat you say? When they raised the admission to $20 they had to hire crowd control experts. I say raise it to $50 — you won’t be able to move in the galleries.

  5. Catherine says

    You might want to revisit your argument. I have not been in MoMA once since 2004 when it was insanely crowded — filled with the types of people who are also happy to spend $13 for a movie or $55 to go to a Yankees game. The crowds at MoMA would suggest that price is not a barrier to the arts for many people. And, if we want the public to value our product, we might also want to make sure that “we” (arts professionals) also understand and communicate its value.

    • says

      Thanks, Catherine, but my argument in the 2004 piece still stands. It’s exactly the different “types” of people you mention that I’m concerned about: those who can pay (many of them tourists) and those who can’t. Just because a museum seems “crowded” doesn’t mean it’s doing its job. Programming is part of the problem too: so-called blockbuster shows target just those high-ticket crowds, reducing the chance that smaller, more experimental exhibitions will be mounted. Also, many of the new-MoMA spaces, which are not entirely successful places to view art, emphasize the crowding. I don’t care to see more folks at MoMA, necessarily, just a different mix. Free-admission plans, as in the UK, are the way to go, but then we’d have to rethink funding — and the purpose of museums — more than most U.S. museum boards would like.

  6. says

    When I was a kid in the 60s, we lived near the (not so fabulous) Baltimore Museum of Art, and I went every couple of weeks for free. I just checked to see what I’d have to pay now, and it’s still free, thanks to funding from a local foundation. And one of the key goals of its current capital campaign is to keep the place free. But I guess this goal isn’t exciting to donors at MOMA or the Met.