Museum Currently Only Demands Visitors Pay Something

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A change to the city lease for the Metropolitan Museum of Art reportedly could allow the institution to charge a mandatory admission rather than a suggested donation.

The new lease was signed Thursday. The museum said in a news release that the lease confirms the existing pay-what-you-wish admission policy that dates back to 1971, and has been updated regularly in years since. It also “authorizes the museum, should the need arise, to consider a range of admission modifications in future years, subject as in the past to review and approval by the city,” the release said.

Specifically, the new lease terms allow the museum to “set the terms of admission to its permanent galleries to the general public, including admission fees and days and hours the Museum shall be open to the public, with the written consent of the Commissioner of the City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs, which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld,” the release said.

The news release did not indicate that the museum was planning to set a mandatory admissions policy, but a DNAInfo report indicated that the amendment could mean such a change could happen. But a museum spokesman told the publication the amendment does not mean any change is planned right now.

The language of the amendment indicates that it does allow the museum theoretically to set an admission fee, as well as charge for “special exhibitions, group tours, educational programs, performances, lectures, conferences, symposia, classes, and shows mounted in the museum’s theater.”

Museum director and chief executive officer Thomas P. Campbell was quoted in the news release as saying the museum hoped to maintain the status quo.

“We are extremely grateful that the City, which has long provided essential operating support to the Met, has moved now to reaffirm a policy that not only allows visitors to pay what they wish at the door, but has encouraged us to offer same-week entrance at no additional cost to the Cloisters museum and gardens in Fort Tryon Park, and has enabled us to provide free-with-admission access to all special exhibitions, as well as cost-free gallery tours, curatorial lectures, library access, and visits by New York City school groups,” he said in the release. “We expect and trust that the museum and the City will continue to work cooperatively into the future to preserve full access to the Met under the generous admissions policies so wisely created in the past.”

Earlier this year, a class-action lawsuit alleged that the Met schemed to defraud the public into believing the fees are required.

The lawsuit contends that the museum uses misleading marketing and training of cashiers to violate an 1893 New York state law that had mandated the public should be admitted for free at least five days and two evenings per week. In exchange, the museum got annual grants from the city and free rent for its building and land along pricey Fifth Avenue in Central Park.

The suit seeks compensation for museum members and visitors who paid by credit card over the past few years.

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