Museums — but at what price?

When a museum opens, publicity usually focuses on its architecture, the exhibits, the museum services and so on. The opening of New York’s renovated Museum of Modern Art, also known as MoMA, which has been scheduled for the end of November, is inevitably a great event, but not so much for the reasons one would expect. The 67 percent raise in the admission ticket (which has gone from 12 dollars to 20) caused a bit of a shock to New York society and even resulted in a three-page article in The New York Times. According to the newspaper, the rise might be absorbed by the dedicated fans of contemporary art, but what about the New Yorkers who used to have their lunch at the museum restaurant? MoMA’s director, Glenn Lowry, did not seem worried and claimed there is a satisfyingly large part of the population for which a visit to the museum will remain important; he added that the ticket hike will not significantly affect the number of museum visitors. The announcement was made during a period of low inflation for the United States: A visit to the Grand Canyon costs as much as it used to five years ago. On the other hand, museums remain a relatively cheap destination. With the $20 MoMA ticket, one can spend the entire day admiring some of the world’s greatest works of art and large exhibitions, plus have access to the ensemble’s two movie theaters; in contrast, two hours at the Metropolitan Opera may cost more than $100. Things in Greece are very different, at least compared to the States. As a rule, Greek museums are accessible, although direct comparison with major museums abroad is risky. Only the National Archaeological Museum may fall into the category of the great museums; the admission ticket there costs 6 euros, a price set before the adoption of the euro. This, however, will change: As of November, the ticket will cost 7 euros, in view of the fact that all of the museum will be open to the public as of the beginning of the new year. The 7-euro ticket will still be less that the 8.50 euros required at the Louvre in Paris, but is still considerably more than the 3 euros one must pay to visit Madrid’s Prado Museum, let alone the British Museum, where admission is free. The highest admission for the remaining museums in Athens is 6 euros (for the National Gallery, the National Glyptotheque and the Benaki Museum), followed by the renovated Byzantine and Christian Museum, admission for which is 4 euros. The Museum of Cycladic Art is relatively low-priced (3.50 euros) but will go up to 5 euros from the new year. One should keep in mind three major museums in Athens, for which admission is free: the National History Museum, the Theater Museum and the Museum of Greek Folk Art.