Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

Do Europeans drive up your MoMA admission?

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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.

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  1. dragonfly says:

    Could it be that Americans are so badly “trained’ in art as to be lap dogs of the nouveaur riche and that they dont know what real art is? And Europeans with their history have a background immediately in quality and art?

  2. Alan Schwartz says:

    It is simple to discuss admission fees to museums without discussing the cost of running the museum. Many Americans have little interest in visiting a museum. They would rather spend their “entertainment” time and money elsewhere. Is it appropriate for them to “subsidize” those who love museums through higher taxes ? Or is the argument that museums can make significant budget cuts with which you would agree ? If entry is a cultural “right” admission should be free.
    Government budgets are strained to say the least & the competing needs of education, health care, public safety and so forth means that increased museum funding cannot be a prime government priority. Government isn’t able to fund every activity of possible value. In any event, studies in the UK showed that free admission did not increase the number of people who visited museums but rather allowed regular visitors to visit more often. finally, there is no evidence whatsoever to support your notion of the MOMA entry fee making it a venue for the “jet-setting 1 percent”. That is not the typical NY tourist. The data does nothing to “prove” your thesis about the level of the admission fee.

  3. C. J. Fitzjames says:

    I am a European immigrant/American Citizen.

    I think $25 is cheap – $50 would be better.

    It would actually make visitors ‘value’ what they had seen. Admittedly it would keep the European tourists away but would make those Americans who pay the fifty bucks actually ponder what they had seen – and what is was worth to them. In the thirty-plus years that I have resided here I have seen value in the USA become only to mean $, therefore such financial provocation would only add mystique to what has now become merely entertainment in American Culture – isn’t contemporary art actually worth more than that?

  4. […] Tyler Green considers how the fact that 60% of MoMA’s visitors are from over seas is driving up their very high $25 admissions fee. […]

  5. […] residents. (MoMA relies on tourists from overseas for an enormous chunk of its admissions revenue: Sixty percent of MoMA visitors are non-Americans.) At $25 per person (and $18 for seniors), MoMA is still priced for the […]

  6. […] especially from tourism? Take the Museum of Modern Art. Last year a MoMA spokesperson said that 60 percent of MoMA’s visitors come from overseas, a clear indication of how important tourists are to MoMA and, by extension, to […]

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