Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

Dallas Museum of Art extends trend toward free

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The Dallas Museum of Art will announce today that it will drop its $10 general admission charge and become free to the public. (Actually, it sort of already has: The JPEG above is a screenshot of the museum’s website. The video wasn’t live as of publishing time. Update: It’s now live. The DMA is free effective Jan. 21, 2013 and has announced a digital rewards program that could make membership free too.)

The DMA is continuing an industry trend of  making general admission free. In recent years museums such as the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art,  the Walters Art Museum and the Detroit Institute of Arts (for local residents) have all decided that they can better fulfill their missions by eliminating barriers to access and entry.

The trend toward greater public access to art has yet to extend to museums in major tourist cities: MoMA soaks visitors — 60 percent of whom come from overseas — for $25. The Met asks for $25 (here’s why that’s a bad idea) and the Guggenheim charges $22. In San Francisco, America’s other big city for art tourism, SFMOMA charges $18. None of them offer free admission or discounts to their home audiences.

Museums outside the two big tourism cities that are behind the curve include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art ($15, $20 for exhibition-access), the Art Institute of Chicago ($18), the Philadelphia Museum of Art ($20) and the Carnegie Museum of Art ($18).

Should your local museum go free? Yes, and here’s why. Will it hurt your local museum’s membership program? Evidence suggests that it will not.

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  1. Eleanor Harvey says:

    For the ten years I was the curator of American Art in Dallas, we did not charge admission to get into the museum, only for entry to special exhibitions. Charging admission was a relatively new–and as it turns out, short-lived–experiment. Nice to see this pendulum swing back to encourage all to experience the museum!

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