Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Price Modern Art?

 Night Windows by Edward Hopper

I was wondering what to write about this week, as I enjoy some time in the cosy retreat of my apartment, waiting on some potentially good news and following up on the flurry of activity created by the launch of my new book, which you may notice is now available directly from my blogsite (see right column of my front page).  This seems to be an easier procedure for those of you who do not want to create accounts on the Blurb site or would like me to sign your copy before shipping. I am trying to keep my prices in line with those offered on Blurb and still give myself some small margin of profit, so I will be offering paperbacks at $30 and hardcovers at $40, with $5 shipping anywhere in the US and $15 shipping anywhere overseas. Many thanks to those of you who have already purchased copies!

 Dance 1 by Henri Matisse

Then I saw this:

The Museum of Modern Art, faced with what it calls “escalating costs in virtually all aspects of operating the museum,’’ is raising its admission price to $25 for adults from $20, where it has been since 2004. The change takes effect on Sept. 1. Admission will remain free for children 16 and under; the charge for full-time students will rise to $14 from $12.
MoMA is following the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In June the Met announced that its suggested admission price would rise to $25 from $20 starting in July. Unlike the Met’s suggested fee, MoMA’s is mandatory. Membership rates for the Museum of Modern Art are rising as well, as of Nov. 1. Individuals will have to pay $85 to be a member rather than $75; a dual membership will be $140 instead of $120, and it will cost a family $175, up from $150.
“These carefully considered increases in admission prices will help ensure that the museum is able to maintain financial stability and a balanced budget,’’ a statement from the museum said.

 Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Pablo Picasso

If there is anyone out there for whom this news does not immediately cause both high indignation and deep despair, they are probably not friends of mine and would never be reading a blog written by a starving artist, so I am going to take it on faith that the rant now building inside me and begging for release in writing will neither offend nor confuse nor repel anyone. But it is not in me to construct a detailed and insightful analysis of everything that is wrong with the art world today, of which this news is the perfect proof. Instead, I decided to fill this post with images that speak better than I can. All images in this post are of artworks currently in the MoMA collection, and will now never be seen in person by anyone who is of a certain economic status, the irony being, most of the artists represented in the collection died in poverty and would also have been unable to visit this elite institution. Art is not for the elite. Art is for everyone, and that includes persons for whom 25 dollars represents necessary funds going towards food, housing, medicine and clothing - not an overpriced leisure activity. It is not, to my mind, an adequate gesture of welcome that those under the age of 16 are still exempt from payment. How many teenagers do you know who would be wise enough to take advantage of this benefit before it is too late? Surely a minority. Better get your museumgoing done before you go to college. Again, how many college students of modest means can afford or would be willing to hand over 14 bucks a visit to go look at art? 

Hyeres, France by Henri Cartier-Bresson

The works here do not even begin to scratch the surface of the MoMA a permanent collection, or the scope and power of the works they regularly bring to the city from other museums and private holdings the world over. They are a powerful, influential and prestigious entity, and I suppose they are allowed to choose the type of people they want inside their doors enjoying what they have to offer. This is their right. The one thing that most angered me about their statement quoted above, was using the Metropolitan Museum of Art as the justification of their raised admission prices.

Slate Blue and Brown on Plum by Mark Rothko

As anyone who has ever visited the Met knows, the prices they list are "suggested" not "required." They may be guilty of relying upon the confusion of their visitors, local and foreign, who pay the price they see written above them on the admissions desk, in script far larger than the word "suggested," to get the full price by less than honorable means, but I can attest that I have visited the Met frequently over the past three decades and never paid them more than I could afford, which was sometimes whatever spare coins I had in pocket, and did not receive any harsh words or looks for my inability to pay more. The Met has other sources of income, other far more affluent connections, just as MoMA, a smaller institution with equally wealthy and numerous patrons does, but the Met chooses not to pass along their escalating operating costs to a sector of the population who can least afford to bear that burden, and now more than ever are the ones most in need of the inspiring and healing powers of art. And this is why I will never go to MoMA again, and will always consider the Met a sanctuary. 

Metropolitan Museum of Art - The Great Hall, Open to All


  1. Great post!! At those prices it really does prevent a lot of people from visiting. I was thinking about what I paid to get in the National Art Gallery of Canada last year and it was $8 dollars for an adult. I just checked and it's now gone up to $9. Family of 5 is $18. I would say that this is reasonable. Now this is an impressive gallery. This Summer they are featuring an exhibition on Caravaggio and his followers in Rome. I need to definitely go check it out!!

  2. OMG - when I think of some of the galleries and museums I've enjoyed at reasonable prices, or for free...and they all put MoMA to shame. It's the arrogance I bristle at - like they are the only game in town, and people will pay anything to go to the cool modern collection in NYC, so why not charge top dollar? It would be cheaper to fly to Paris and visit the Picasso Museum - and a lot more pleasant!

    BTW, Caravaggio rocks! Definitely go! I think I saw a similar show at the Met a few years back - for a quarter. Be well, girlfriend!

  3. Truly sad news. As you know, in DC most of the Smithsonian Museums are free and there are wonderful exhibits every year not to talk about their own collections.

  4. It is sad, Luis. Fortunately some museums, like the ones in DC, not only get it right by being free or affordable, but also bring great art to the public by creating strong permanent collections and continuing to borrow from places most of us might never otherwise get to. This news about MoMA just broke today - I am sure I will not be the only one to have a negative (and vocal) reaction! Have a great weekend.

  5. wow, this is a real problem.
    What would be of my life if I had to pay every time I had to see a painting ? I would probably be a musician now.
    Tell me , don't they had a day that is for free for everyone ? MOMA and MET ?
    Here the Masp and other art museuns that charge a fee they have one day of the week free... for people like me.

    Art Instotutions are really important... but American Art institutions that have in its collection European artists should understand these works don't totaly belong to then but to Humanity and they must to let it free for everyone. It was bought most part during the post war for ridiculous cheep prices taking advantage of the situation of misery Europe was passing by the time. It is a huge responsability and these institutions can be stingy about this and hide for who can't pay.
    Yes , I agree it is extremely expensive to support it all.... but if they don't have capacity to deal with it in a really democratic shouldn't have adquired this works in first place... they are European art and in Europe the museuns use to be for free.
    And lets not forget that USA is passing for a moment of economic crises. So, who can visit these places with regularity? Art studends ?

  6. Caio I knew this would make an impression on you! MoMA does still have one free night on Fridays, but because it is the only time most true art loving New Yorkers can afford it is like being in a rush hour traffic jam because of the crowds and is not a good way to view art, waiting on long lines and then packed into the galleries for a few brief hours like sardines in a can!

    I agree that many American museums owe their reputations and their income to the European art they have "acquired," sometimes in the past not by honest means! You are right - such works belong to everyone. In fact, many American museums are free or a fraction of the cost of MoMA. I hope people boycott MoMA and when the number of visitors declines, all the wealthy donors will pull away their support because they will no longer have so many people seeing their names on the walls of the rooms! Thanks for your comment, my friend.

  7. I started to type truly sad. But it is more than sad. It is an evil tragedy. Art is/should be a benison for all our souls, not just the well off. Our local gallery is free though you do have to pay to see special exhibitions. Since these exhibitions are made up of work by artists which has had to be brought to Oz specially I figure that is fair. And almost always beg, borrow or scrape enought to get in. But there is more than enough in the rest of the gallery to feast the eyes.

  8. EC, you are right - it does go beyond sad to something really insidious and potentially dangerous for what it represents and may betoken...I'm hoping more people speak out and let MoMA know the error of their ways. Thanks for your comment and have a great weekend!

  9. Hi dear Gabriella,

    this is so sad indeed and for me the reason why i have mixed up feelings about the art world. Blablaing managers who think they are the most important, dictating what is art and what isn`t, but only caring about how much money it will bring. And what i see here in my country, is that most people of this kind of elite don`t have a passion and heart for art. Fortunately the musea overhere are low in prices, especially for students and people with low income.
    My friend it will take some time to catch up and read all the posts i`ve missed. But it will be a joy to read them all.
    And a book!! i surely will get myself a copy of it.

    Hugs and kisses, Monica

  10. Hi Monica - yes, it does seem the people with the wrong motives are in charge of how the rest of us experience art and only cater to others with the same bad values!

    So many times I have been in a museum and found myself trapped behind spoiled shallow people only there to gossip and bla-bla in front of a magnificent painting as if it were just there as a pretty decorative background for them, while I am waiting for a moment of privacy to confront it and communicate with it from my soul to the soul of the artist!

    So good to see you here, my friend. Hugs and kisses back to you!

  11. I have no idea about the abstract art, but I like that photograph of the bike from the curving stairs case !!!

  12. I like the idea of being asked to pay that which you can afford for entry into galleries, but the trouble is often it's those with the least who pay the most, or at least they are the most honest.

    It's a poignant point that many of the artists of these great works often died in poverty and could ill afford admission prices to today's galleries. Thanks Two tigers.

  13. Wong - that photo is by Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of my favorite photographers, a true 20th century master! His images are in many collections and also easily found in books and online. You should check him out!

  14. So true, Elisabeth. I have indeed seen people at pay-as-you-can museums who are obviously well-off paying less than I. Perhaps that is how they stay so well-off!

    Many thanks for your comment.

  15. But, it's "suggested entrance", is it not? I was in NY this summer and I chose to not pay the suggested entrance at the Metropolitan Museum. I offered a dollar bill, they gave me one of those little pins, and I got in!
    Thanks for the nice comment in my blog. I really appreciate it coming from a New Yorker.

  16. Hi Jorge - nice to see you here! The $25 fee is indeed "suggested" at the Metropolitan Museum, but it is REQUIRED at the Museum of Modern Art. Just think of all the treasures at the Met that you were able to enjoy for just a dollar! That dollar bill would not gain you access at MoMA - unless it was accompanied by 24 more of its kind! Such a shame. Thanks for your comment and have a great weekend!

  17. I fully agree Gabriella, musea should be accessible and affordable to everyone who wants to have the experience of looking at art, to stand before great pieces can do wonders to heart and soul. Here in Belgium prices are very reasonable i must say.
    Most people have to learn to look at art, 'elite' or not. One needs time to look at art in the first place, 'elite' has time.
    Looking at art can provoke and stimulate people, it makes there world wider.
    One wonders are they still playing their old game 'keep the masses stupid'?


  18. Hi Renilde - you ask a very serious question I had not even though about! As EC said, there is sadness but also evil in this practice of excluding people who are not considered "elite" enough to view you may be right that it is a conscious attempt to keep the masses uninformed and narrowminded and therefore easier to manipulate! I am glad that your prices in Belgium are reasonable. Perhaps American museums will take a hint (and not just all their art)from overseas! Many thanks for your comment, my good friend.

  19. Well thankfully I feel like I just visited a museum after viewing your post! That Hopper is great!

  20. That's one of my top favorite Hoppers - because I love almost all his work like a favorite! There is something very photographic about the angle and the sense of framing - and the sense of the voyeur! Thanks for your comment, TB - I love sharing great artworks here from time to time. Museums and the works I've found there are such a big part of my life - and should be for everyone!

  21. Hi G/TT I think this is as bad as charging to use a public library. How dare they charge so much for what should rightfully be public and shared?

    Luckily for us, or not, most of our major cultural institutions are govt-funded (not fully) and don't charge, but then we don't get the great philanthropic donations your big ones do.

    I honestly can't believe you could charge that much money for a single visit. An annual subscription maybe...

  22. F - funny, I was going to draw that same parallel between museums and public libraries - or parks. Okay, a small fee to cover costs, a mechanism for larger donations and memberships with benefits, fine, but not emptying your wallet just to get in the door! Incredible.

    Have a great week!

  23. Caríssima,
    you move in a great subject.
    Its really hard to see a decently good exposure!
    Besides the price, queues and crowds .... school groups and still thinking that the museum is a theme park ...
    schools do not prepare young people with a good arts education is a discipline 'unimportant' unfortunately.
    But as Caio said, here in São Paulo, we have in some museums a day of free entry, which helps.
    This is a very delicate matter, far from improving ....


  24. Denise - good to see you here, as always! It is a very delicate matter, I agree. The price is not the only thing wrong with museums and arts education in general today! I feel fortunate that I had parents who introduced me to culture and encouraged me to follow creative pursuits. School was not teaching me very much, and unless you hang out only with fellow artists, society doesn't care about the arts either! Ah well, all the more reason for us to stick together! All the best to you, my dear.

  25. Greetings and welcome to my blog, Daniel! Many thanks for your visit and your comment. Have a good week!