As part of its efforts to address a $15 million operating deficit, the museum filed a formal proposal earlier this month with New York City to charge — for the first time in its 147-year history — visitors from outside New York State a mandatory admissions fee. A fee of $25 (for adults), the same as the museum's current suggested contribution, would be in line with admissions fees at other New York art institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, both of which charge $25, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, which charges $22. Of the record seven million people who visited the Met in 2016, 67 percent were from out of state, while 39 percent were visitors from abroad.
The details of how the fee would work is the subject of talks with the city, which, in addition to providing the museum with $27 million in subsidies annually, owns the museum site in Central Park and has right of approval over its admission policies. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has given general support to the idea, saying it was "fair" for non-state residents to pay something.
Daniel H. Weiss, the Met's president and COO, blamed the museum's financial problems on "a perfect storm" of too many costly special exhibitions, public programming that was overly ambitious, and declining revenues from its restaurants and gift shops. Weiss is serving as interim CEO following the announcement in February of director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell's resignation, effective June 30.
Over the past year, the museum has eliminated about a hundred staff positions through voluntary buyouts and layoffs, slashed the number of special exhibits it stages annually from fifty-five to about forty, and indefinitely postponed construction of a $600 million wing that had been planned but not fully financed. Instead, the museum will focus on more pressing capital needs, Weiss told the AP, including spending as much as $100 million to replace a block-long "ocean of bad skylights" built in the 1930s.
"We've had financial challenges — significant ones — over the last couple of years that have culminated over the past year," said Weiss, "and a rather significant need to reorganize the institution and to retrench our finances."