Christopher Knight, the Los Angeles Times Art Critic has written up an interesting article on Jeffrey Deitch’s start as Director (the fourth in 30 years) and gives his point of view on where the reality of life in LA can begin to match the goals of the Museum. Numbers mater in the Art world even if we don’t want to talk about it and MOCA’s attendance has been dropping steadily for years. Couple that with the fiscal mismanagement gamble back in 2008 where they created a budget that relied on donor money to cover around 80% of the cost (money that evaporated with the crash) and things were pretty bleak.
The consensus & expectation is that Jeffrey Deitch will bring the kind of shows and energy that will rally the general population of LA and raise attendance above it’s current 600 people a day. Think about that, 600 people, more people visit this site then MOCA in a given day and MOCA is spending $20 Million a year. MOCA has a wonderful collection and this isn’t a referendum by the people of LA on Art but on the growing disconnect between Art Tastemakers and the general population. A rift that has been growing for years with little to no abatement.
It’s not just LA, we have had the same debates on hours of operation & marketing of events in Chicago for over 5 years. Christopher Knight goes on to offer his advice on what Mr. Deitch might want to examine as Director and the second I can agree with aspects of, the first not so much:
1. General admission: take it from $10 to free
I have always questioned why everything needs to be free. In my experience people have a habit of discounting what they don’t pay for and it effects the overall opinion. Work at a bar (or the music industry these days) and you can see that in action, lines and a small cover even if they are annoying increase the overall pleasure of the experience as long as guests expectations are met once they enter. Also even if the door charge is less then 10% of the budget that is still a valuable/usefull daily cash flow even for an institution of that size. Art like any other business lives and breathes on cash flow.
I would suggest price pointing it at $5 a person and make it free to seniors, students & active military (for many solid reasons not worth rehashing here). At that price it has a real value, is proportioned correctly to films, concerts & other nightlife activities and doesn’t nullify the whole selling point of yearly membership.
2. Hours of Operation: take it from closing at 5-6pm & 8pm on Thursday to more befitting late nights.
No argument but very tricky and might not be as useful as even I thought years ago. This just might be a tourist/weekday local/weekend world we live in.
The one thing that Mr. Knight doesn’t tackle is the one thing that everyone is so afraid of about Jeffrey Dietch as Director, the “curatorial” focus of the exhibits and I think more so “how they are marketed to the world”. Everyone is waiting on baited breath since it seems no one has faith that an intelligent discussion on Art can be molded into a form of interest to the general public. That is the great experiment going on in LA and if it is successful could echo throughout the American Art World as a whole and faster then you might think.
Starting Memorial Day, May 31, 2010, through Labor Day, September 6, 2010 over 700 Museums will offer free admission to active military personnel and their families. This list organized by the National Endowment for the Arts & Blue Star Families (a non-partisan, non-profit organization, created by military families for military families) includes The Met, The MOMA, The Whitney, The Guggenheim, not to mention Chicago’s Art Institute & MCA. The complete museum list broken down by state can be found here.
This is a wonderful program that is both good politics, good business & good karma. I would love to see the Art Institute & MCA get together and lead the way by extending it to not only the summer but year round and for as long as America is at war. Our museums in all 50 states have a sum collection of history and culture that is unrivaled throughout the world. A treasure that every military personnel should be welcomed and encouraged to see with open arms.
Chicago is the city of tomorrow, lets have Chicago lead the way.
UPDATE: After speaking with Erin Hogan Director of Public Affairs with the Art Institute to clarify what the difference/change was in ongoing policy she explained that the established policy was active military were free but with Blue Star for the summer families of active military would be free as well. Also the website would be updated to better reflect this policy.
This is great to hear and hope it is a big success.
There’s been some commentary on other art and culture blogs about this, so maybe we should get into it too: The Art Institute has raised its price of admission by 50%. Now, the general public will pay $18, seniors and students pay $12, up from the $7 it was previously.
There have been a few good pieces on this issue written elsewhere over the past couple of days; in particular I liked Tyler Green’s post over at Modern Art Notes, Museum cannibalism: pricing out visitors. Green points out that Chicago museums are more reliant on admissions revenue than are institutions in other cities, but nevertheless decisions like this make it much harder for average folks, especially younger demographics, to make museum-going a regular thing. Salient quote:
“Museums could do lots of things to avoid pricing out visitors. Trustees could give more. Foundations could give more. Museums could cut more staff. But the last thing they should do is raise admissions charges and inhibit public access to art at a time when we need it most.”
EDITED TO ADD: Someone rightly pointed out that there’s more to the admissions story: free days! Here they are, straight from the Art Institute’s web site:
- One late evening per week (Thursdays after 5:00 p.m.) throughout the year
- Two late evenings per week (Thursdays and Fridays after 5:00 p.m.) during the summer (May 31 to August 31)
- The entire month of February
- The week of the opening of the Modern Wing, from May 16 to May 22, 2009
Go directly to the Art Institute’s visitor page for even more details. Plus, children under 12 will continue to get in free of charge, and there will no longer be a charge for special exhibitions or coat check.