Economics Museums USA

Judge upholds Met’s suggested admission fees

Following an agreement it reached with the city last week, a court ruling clears the way for the museum to charge a recommended donation for entry

A New York State Supreme Court judge ruled on Tuesday that the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s suggested admission fee does not violate its original lease with the city. Judge Shirley Werner Kornreich granted the museum’s motion to dismiss the majority of two lawsuits against the institution.

According to the terms of the Met’s original 1876 lease and an 1893 state law, the city and state governments agreed to give financial support to the museum in exchange for it offering free admission five days a week. That arrangement changed in 1971, when the city permitted the Met to charge a minimal contribution in the wake of decreasing government support and an economic downturn. On 24 October, the museum amended its lease with the city to codify the 1971 agreement. According to the updated terms, the museum can “set the terms of admission to its permanent galleries to the general public, including admission fees” as long as it secures written consent from the city.

In her ruling, Judge Kornreich wrote that the Met’s current policy does not violate the spirit of the lease, which seeks to make the museum accessible to a broad public. “Admission to the Met is de facto free for all”, she wrote, because “a de minimis contribution of a penny is accepted”. On average, museumgoers pay $11 for admission to the museum. The Met raised its suggested fee from $20 to $25 in 2011.

One portion of the case, meanwhile, will proceed. The judge did not dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims that the museum misleads visitors into believing they must pay the full admission fee to gain access to the museum.

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