With two lawsuits pending against the Metropolitan Museum of Art — both claiming that visitors are being defrauded by the strongly suggested but not actually mandatory $25 admission fee — the city has stepped in on the side of the business. In an amendment to the Met’s original 1878 lease from the city (updated in 1971), the outgoing Bloomberg administration is clarifying that the museum can charge admission if it needs or wants to. The agreement “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,” according to an announcement.
“The museum’s effort to arrange a lease amendment, in the dead of night, without notice to the public and without regard to the democratic process, is nothing but a desperate stunt by the museum to defeat claims its lawyers must know are valid,” countered Michael Hiller, the lawyer who is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuits. “It won’t sell politically. It won’t pass muster legally, and if anything, merely reinforces the fact the museum has been violating the lease for the last 43 years and that it must stop.”
While the new lease gives formal approval for the museum to charge more for things like group tours and special exhibitions, the museum insists it has “no plans” to do so and “no plans to make plans,” according to a spokesperson. “What the amendment does is preserve the museum’s right to do so, which we think crucial in the wake of legal challenges to admissions that pose a threat to a vital part of our operating budget.”
The Mets says visitors pay an average of $11 for admission, a middle ground presumably brought up by clueless tourists and down by cheap locals.