How Much Should We Pay for Art?

A recent New York Times article discusses two lawsuits that have recently been brought against the Metropolitan Museum of Art because of its contradictory and confusing admissions policy. According to their website, the Met “recommends” that adults pay $25 in order to gain entrance to the museum. Because it is a recommendation instead of a requirement, patrons are able to pay as much as they wish. However, according to Sarah Lyall (author of the New York Times article), this policy causes a lot of people to feel guilty because of how much they pay, and also causes a lot of confusion. These lawsuits seem to question whether or not we can ascribe art, and the access to art, a monetary value. While on some level I believe that all art should be accessible to everyone, regardless of how much they can pay for it, the cost of maintaining an art museum must also be taken into consideration. The famous French art museum, The Louvre, takes a different approach than the Met, offering free admission to young people who are members of the European Union, as well as to people who are receiving unemployment benefits, people holding an “education pass,” artists (who belong to the Maison des Artistes), as well as disabled visitors. All others are asked to pay a price somewhere between €12-16. While perhaps for many people $25 or €12 isn’t exactly a hefty price to pay, it still places a limit on who has access to some of the most well-respected pieces of art and (perhaps more importantly) pieces of our world’s cultural history. Maybe with the increasing power of the internet these barriers are becoming more irrelevant. I don’t need to pay €12 to see the Mona Lisa when google can show me thousands of images of it instantaneously, and for free. However, I’m not sure the experience of any kind of art is a solely visual experience. Art is a visceral, phenomenological experience, one that perhaps the internet can’t fully replicate. But also one that has increasingly become more and more expensive for institutions to maintain–especially because so many people can turn to google in order to see their favorite painting. I don’t know if I know the answer to whether or not we should put a price on art.  I think art is an extremely valuable part of our society, and that this value should be expressed in monetary worth (since that is how we most often express value in today’s society)–not to mention that the artist, as well as museum curators, administrators, security agents, and janitors should be given monetary compensation for their work. However, I also think there should be absolutely no barriers to the accessibility of art, because part of art’s power is its very accessibility. So I don’t know the answer, and maybe there isn’t an answer. But I do have a question. How much should we have to pay for art?


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