Two hero lawyers have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Metropolitan Museum of Art over the museum's attempts to make its absurd but optional $25 admission fee appear to be mandatory:
The lawsuit contends that the museum uses misleading marketing and training of cashiers to violate an 1893 New York state law that mandates the public should be admitted for free at least five days and two evenings per week. In exchange, the museum gets annual grants from the city and free rent for its building and land along pricey Fifth Avenue in Central Park.
Most people who've been to the Met more than once know that the fee is "recommended" and not required, even if the cashiers are mean about it and the signage is more than a little misleading. But if you are a decent person seeking to support important cultural institutions, you may find yourself feeling obligated to pay out the full $25. These are hard times, after all, and surely a nonprofit like the Met is suffering. Why would it ask for such a ridiculously high figure otherwise? Shouldn't we just treat the fee as the cost of seeing a world-class collection of art and artifacts? (As a Canadian tourist tells the AP, "It's a beautiful museum and I was happy to pay.") Doesn't the Met need our money to survive? Well: no.
The Metropolitan Museum is one of the world's richest cultural institutions, with a $2.58 billion investment portfolio, and isn't reliant on admissions fees to pay the majority of its bills. Only about 11 percent of the museum's operating expenses were covered by admissions charges in the 2012 fiscal year. As a nonprofit organization, the museum pays no income taxes.
So: no, the Met is not suffering; it doesn't need your money; it is required by law to open its doors to the public; and the cost of having a(nother) world-class collection in the city is already partly borne by your tax bill. (And should be borne further.)
[AP, image via AP]