MoMA is the Devil, but there’s Pretty there and decent Food. Quandary.

Looking out over MoMA's sculpture garden. So lovely. So evil.
Looking out over MoMA’s sculpture garden. So lovely. So evil.

In NYC’s Museum of Modern Art there’s always a little crowd around Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Nightwhich is misplaced and should rather be by Pablo Picasso’s Desmoiselles d’Avignon, if we’re considering relative importance to the history of art, but that’s neither here nor there. What is here and there is how terrible MoMA is at the most important markers of being a good museum. YES they have an unparalleled collection of modern art (though women artists are woefully underrepresented) and the various cafes and restaurants in the museum provide actually pretty good food at a range of prices (never cheap, but there are options), but they do almost everything else WRONG.

1. It costs $25 to get in. The list could end here because that is SIMPLY ABSURD. Pricing a museum admission, which should be a place of learning and exploration for EVERYBODY, at $25 is ethically wrong. At that cost lots of people–whether they are lower income individuals, poor grad students, young New Yorkers, travelers on a budget, whoever–are priced out of visiting. It makes me mad. Fridays from 4-8pm are free (grossly sponsored by a clothing store), but it’s so crowded you need to bring scuba gear because you won’t be able to breathe!

2. It’s ALWAYS packed to the gills to the extent that the staircases get so full you get the sickening feeling that if there was a fire, you would be trapped.

3. They recently completed a ridiculously expensive expansion ($853 million), which is partly why there’s that absurd admission price–an expansion that was clearly poorly thought-out considering the situations in the staircases–and they’re planning an another expansion as we speak. The new plans are hugely controversial because they’re going to knock down the adjacent American Folk Art Museum, a structure that is only 12 years old. Gross. They should have just done better the first time. Yes, it’s pretty with the airy galleries and glass and everything, but this is RIDICULOUS.

4. I’m getting too annoyed writing this list so I have to stop. $25 for admissions. $25!!!

5. $25!

Am I being short-sighted? Am I, a degenerate art historian, not seeing the value there? Tell me I’m wrong, because I don’t want to be so jaded, but really and truly, MoMA is the devil!!

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30 thoughts on “MoMA is the Devil, but there’s Pretty there and decent Food. Quandary.

  1. I am sorry you are so upset with the new admission price. You are lucky, I have a degree in Fine Art and have never made the trip to see it… I know that it sounds unreasonable but think of what a movie ticket in New York goes for or a play or a trip to the theater.. Maybe it really is not that high for culture and a day in one of the worlds best collections. I have payed almost that much at history museums and at Carnegie Hall several times. It is ok to bitch about it… Art was never really made for us poor people was it!

    1. You’re right, lots of those things are incredibly expensive, but I disagree that “art was never really made for us poor people.” It’s a fairly modern concept that there would be *public* institutions for art viewing–private collecting goes back to the beginning of time–but public buildings for art viewing is a relatively recent thing and if an institution is going to be open to the public, it should be open to the public, meaning all of the public, including the members of the public that don’t have much money. It is my life’s mission to argue that art IS and SHOULD be for everyone, everywhere, always no matter their income or education level. Historically, when art wasn’t hoarded in “public collections” a lot of it tended to be in public places– city squares, church walls, up above doorways, etc. While yes, in the past a lot of art was owned by popes and princes and all of that wasn’t accessible to the regular folk, there were still Caravaggio altarpieces publicly visible out in churches, Donatello sculptures on altars, the Arch of Constantine for all to see. And besides there are lots and lots of art museums with incredible collections that are free, have a suggested admissions price, or a more reasonable ticket than $25. While their collection is nearly unparalleled, it can be done differently than MoMA does it and I strongly think that it should be.

  2. My annual membership with MOMA recently expired. Buying an annual membership of $75 was a value for me because I worked across the street and spent many a lunch hour strolling through the museum or attending one of the morning private viewings for members. I hated not renewing this year, but with retirement in the works, it didn’t make financial sense to renew. I shall miss my lunch hours there.

    The Museum of Design (MUDD) at Columbus Circle is a smaller museum with a more reasonable admission – and it’s never crowded which is enjoyable.

    Looking forward to your travel posts.

    1. You make a good point to bring up annual memberships– they do tend (even at evil MoMA) to be a good deal. Not so helpful for the casual visitor though. And great point about the tons of the other great, great, great littler museums in NYC. I LOVE the Museum of Design, but I tend to forget it’s there, thanks!

    1. Especially to lower-income individuals! At least here in the US lower income neighborhoods tend to get the complete shaft when it comes to educational resources (among other things), so it behooves us all to make museums as accessible to those individuals as possible. An educated populace is what we should all strive for. I might be revealing my politics with that stance, but there we are. Thanks for reading and the comment!

  3. A New Yorker friend of mine told me that the $25 was actually a “strongly suggested donation amount” — you are TECHNICALLY supposed to be able to donate whatever amount you’d like. My friend said she always donates a dollar, endures the very nasty looks she’s given, and walks right in. Your mileage may vary 🙂

    1. If that’s true, that’s wonderful news. I know that is the policy at other museums (the Met, the Natural History museum), but I have never heard of that being the case at MoMA and they do an even better job of obscuring that policy than other places (both the Met and Natural History put in the tiny print that the admissions price is suggested, a word I’ve yet to find in MoMA’s info). Perhaps I’ll give it a try next time I’m there. Thanks for letting me know!

      1. I think I have it right, but there’s a possibility I’m misremembering! At any rate, $25 is steep for sure, and I am outraged along with everyone else, haha!

  4. This makes me feel lucky to live on the other side of the Atlantic, where museums and art galleries tend to be a lot cheaper, if not free, to enter. London in particular is wonderful in this regard. It’s a relic of a time when governments felt responsible for ensuring for the education and cultural enrichment of the people they served. (Also the relic of the times when their armies and scholars went out across the world and grabbed anything that wasn’t nailed down, but let’s not get into that…) I’ve been to New York several times but haven’t made it to MOMA yet. Hopefully next time. Thanks for the article, and I hope your blood pressure is back to normal now.

    1. Museums are probably the only instance where London can claim to be cheaper than other cities! I haven’t been there since I was a kid and clearly it’s time to revisit. And yes, I’ve cooled down now. Thanks for reading!

  5. Charging a high entrance fees allows them to purchase and display art that few can see. They may find that halving the price would result in double the visitors. Even $12.50 is a lot though. I think significant changes would be noticed below $8.

    1. You make interesting points, my issues is that they are ostensibly a “public” institution for “public” learning, etc. $25 admissions fees price you WELL out of the range of a lot of the public. So let’s call a spade a spade, they aren’t interested in the “public.” And I think that’s wrong. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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