The most interesting news tidbit of the fall so far comes from NYTer Stuart Elliott: About 60 percent of MoMA’s visitors come from overseas. Sixty percent! That’s not tourists, period, that’s just tourists from outside the United States. [Photo via Flickr user Alan Light.]
Aside from being an astonishing figure — do New Yorkers go to MoMA?! — it provides the fullest explanation yet for MoMA’s exorbitant, only-the-jet-setting-one-percent-please admission fee of $25: At one level, MoMA operates as a tourist attraction and in an entrance-oriented economy that competes with the observation deck of the Empire State Building ($25) and Madame Tussaud’s ($28-36), rather than as a non-profit art museum motivated by providing New Yorkers access to great art and related educational opportunities. In other words, MoMA’s admission price is set to compete with Circle Line cruises and whatnot — and not in an effort to make it possible for the broadest possible swath of New Yorkers to discover art. (I still don’t understand why MoMA doesn’t have a separate admissions-pricing tier for locals.)
Related: Of course, it’s not just MoMA: The Guggenheim ($22) is also priced for tourists and not local art-lovers. In FY 2010 the Gugg relied upon $16 million in admissions, an enormous chunk of the $57 million in revenue it booked that year. The Met does not pull out admissions-related revenue on its tax return, perhaps because of a long-standing arrangement with the city, admission at the Met is merely suggested. The Whitney charges $18.