A proposal by the creators of Gradient — a tool to enable retailers to price their goods on a sliding scale — and the artists behind Look at Art. Get Paid — a socially engaged art program that pays people who wouldn’t normally visit art museums to attend one as guest critics.
In this article we share our reasons for putting forward our proposal for sliding scale pricing at the Met. See equitablemet.com
As of the 1st of this month, out of state visitors to the Met will be charged a fixed $25 admission fee, ending a 50 year pay-what-you-wish policy for all visitors.
A fixed $25 fee will slash access to the Met for low-income out-of-state visitors and in-state visitors who are unable to produce proof-of-residence.
In defense of the Met’s new policy, President and CEO Daniel H. Weiss said “In every society and throughout history, excellence costs money.”
Fixed $25 tickets will cost the Met the very visitors meaningful excellence depends on.
Weiss’s statement leaves us asking What does “excellence” mean?
The Met was founded by affluent, white, businessmen, financiers, and artists. Its development cannot be separated from “white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, abuse of labor, colonization, imperialist theft of art and artifacts”¹ , and the imposition of western-centric narratives of art and its history. A century and a half later, funding for the arts in the U.S.– both public and private– is still monopolized by white-run cultural institutions such as the Met.
Is this excellence?
For the Met to achieve excellence meaningfully and expand its relevance beyond its affluent white donor base, it needs the perspectives of visitors whose experiences are not typically centered by the Met — visitors who must pay additional unaccounted costs in order to enter its space.
These visitors are often from low-income communities where the costs of going to the Met are disproportionately high — think additional transportation inconveniences, childcare costs, and time diverted from paid or domestic work. On top of that, these visitors take the risk of investing their time and energy in a space that doesn’t prioritize them. This includes navigating cultural codes of a historically white institution and viewing one’s culture through a western gaze. For many visitors, this also means submitting themselves to authority and surveillance, such as bag searches, video surveillance, and requesting of legal documentation. We consider this labor.
That said, the Met stands out amongst historically white cultural institutions in the US, and has opened its doors to diverse visitors who can join its stakeholder base. The Met has made major pushes in reaching audiences through social media, digitizing images to make them available online, gradually expanding its collection to include black artists and other artists of color, offering thousands of special programs, and including programs for differently abled visitors.
Yet the Met does not recognize that it owes much of these leaps to visitors who took a risk in visiting the Met — visitors who saw potential in an organization that didn’t center them; visitors who raised their voices to share a vision of a more welcoming and representative Met; visitors who became the first from their communities to join the Met’s staff; visitors who are now shaping the Museum’s future.
The Met’s pay-what-you-wish policy opened up a stakeholder base that could hold it accountable to making critical changes.
If these visitors had to pay $25 to enter, what visionaries might the Met have lost?
By removing pay-what-you-wish for out-of-state visitors, and requiring proof-of-residence for in-state visitors, the Met is divesting from this audience, and stepping back from being an institution of excellence.
It is not acceptable for the Met and other such white institutions to dominate public funding in the arts while claiming to serve the broader public, and receive tax breaks on such claims. It is not acceptable to exclude the demographics whose culture and heritage has been stolen by the west’s colonial past.
This is why we’ve put together Towards Equitable Met Ticketing, a proposal for the Met to adopt sliding scale pricing. Given the claim that the Met wants to an increase revenue from its admissions, we propose a way for the Met to continue leading the US as an institution of excellence.
What do we hope to achieve with this proposal?
Our purpose in creating Towards Equitable Met Ticketing is first to put the Met’s decision under the spotlight and call them out for deprioritizing non-white and non-affluent audiences. We want to make clear to other museums that this is not only unacceptable, but also a step back from excellence as an institution.
Towards Equitable Met Ticketing puts forward a concrete proposal for museum visitors to engage with, and discuss. Is there support for an equitable admissions policy — particularly for a sliding scale that would raise fees on many visitors to enable access for others? We hope this proposal can make a stronger statement in reaction to the Met’s decision than pure dissent, and express what we as the public require of a cultural institution.
Gradient + Look At Art. Get Paid.
For questions about the calculations, modeling and data see here.