NEW YORK — Two Metropolitan Museum of Art members filed a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court yesterday alleging that the historically free, public institution has been deceiving visitors into paying entry fees.
A (recently raised) fee of $25 is the museum's “recommended” rate, but plaintiffs Theodore Grunewald and Patricia Nicholson say this detail isn't listed on several of its websites, and only in “fine and tiny print” on signs near the cash registers. Lawyers argue that the museum has been committing consumer fraud by requiring everyone to pay at least something — despite an 1893 statute mandating that the museum maintain a “pay what you wish” policy in exchange for receiving government funding.
“It’s an absolute travesty,” said Nicholson in a press release. “The museum was designed to be open to everyone, without regard to their financial circumstances — a public library of art and culture to enrich the lives of the citizenry. But instead, the museum has been converted into an elite tourist attraction to be enjoyed only by those who can afford to pay expensive and illegal admission fees.”
Met publicist Harold Holzer told the New York Post today that the complaint is “ludicrous and outrageous,” adding that, “The suggested admission is $25, but it’s not mandatory. It’s on the signage.”
The lawsuit cites a survey of 360 visitors to the Met, in which 85 percent didn't know museum admission was free.
Nicholson and Grunewald are seeking a court order to immediately prevent the museum from requiring entry fees, and to reopen the former Central Park entrance. Their — somewhat murky — logic has it that the entrance was closed to cut the number of ticket takers they would have to employ, which proves that the museum only aims to maximize profit at the expense of accessibility.