“Pay What You Wish but You Must Pay Something.”
by Deniz CAGLAR
In a symposium hosted in 2002 at Harvard University, “It’s almost a moral duty that museums should be free.” declared director of the Museum of Modern Art New York, Glenn D. Lowry.
Contrarily, “What is it about art that it shouldn’t be paid for?” asked the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philippe de Montebello, who retired only a few years ago after leading the museum for thirty years. “We live in a world where people pay huge amounts of money to attend rock concerts and sports events” he added, quoted on the ArtJournal’s art blog Culture Grrl.
This remains an issue of widespread debate for many years.
As Londoners; we are definitely privileged since we have free access to world class attractions such as the National Portrait Gallery, Science Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, The Natural History Museum, British Museum and many ohers. This contrasts with the existing procedures in most of the other cultural capitals. In Brussels, it costs €9 to enter Royal Museum of Fine Arts Belgium, whereas Spain’s national art museum, Museum del Prado charges €14 per adult.
Well… I have no doubt, every institution is trying to make things easier for us in their own way. Some of them offer monthly / weekly free days or hours; or charges differ depending on age, nationality, on tourists and locals.
The Louvre Museum in Paris… A ticket to enter the Louvre costs €11 and it is free on the first Sunday of each month. Plus, it is always free for visitors under the age of 18, or under 26 on Friday evenings. So far, sounds good. YET, this goes only for those who are residents of the European Economic Area (EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway)
So… If you are American, African or Arabian, and you have no money; you have no chance to see Mona Lisa.
I do not think this is a fair policy. As a freedom of cultural and educational opportunity, I believe free access to such important cultural resources is essential, regardless of people’s nationality, age, or any other attribution.
Yet here is the other side of the coin; some facts that make the situation quiet more complicated.
According to UK’s government figures, visits to museums have increased by 158% since universal free entrance to national museums and galleries had been introduced in 2001.
We can not put aside that the increase in visitor numbers goes hand in hand with the increase in running costs. To meet the demands, museums now hire extra staff and offer extended opening hours.
So the question is, how are these institutions going to ensure their doors remain open with mutualism?
Ideally, there would be a suggested admission; a voluntary donation.
I think New York Metropolitan Museum of Art could be the greatest example of the fact that funding to keep a museum running can be pried from a budget. At the entrance of the Metropolitan, there is a saying “Pay What You Wish but You Must Pay Something.” You can either pay $25 as recommended fee or you can pay a penny.
Indeed apart from requesting charities and visitors to make donations, most of the major admission free institutions charge for temporary and special exhibitions, which is fair.
The critical issue at this point is to never forget money can not never ever be the prior factor for anyone in this sector, since indisputably museums have a great role in transferring a society’s history; social, artistic, cultural heritage to the new generations.
Wherever possible; free access, or at least pay what you wish policy is essential, as it will encourage more people to find out about their own cultural history which will eventually help to promote their feelings of national unity and identity, while stimulating stronger understanding and acceptance of other societies, cultures.