The Confusing Price of Enjoying Art

Advertised admission prices are not what they appear.

| Fran Silverman

Is it $25 to get a ticket to get into New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art? Or is the amount you pay up to you?

Two class-action lawsuits allege that the museum’s admission entrance policy and signage misled the public by not making it clear to visitors that they can pay what they want to pay. So the Met, in settlement before the New York State Supreme Court, instituted some changes this March, including rewording admission signs at its counters, self-service kiosks and website. The signs in the entrance to the world famous and largest art museum now state that its $25 admission charge is a “suggested” amount. The signs used to say it was the “recommended” charge.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, recommend means “to advise a particular course of action; to advise somebody to do something.” Suggest means “to put forward an idea or a plan for other people to think about.” So yes, there’s some nuance there, but I have to wonder, if your boss “recommends” you finish a project she needs by the end of the week, or “suggests” you do, I’m thinking you are going to finish that project for her either way. Likely, visitors might feel the same way about whether “suggested” rather than “recommended” really helps get the point across that you can pay whatever amount you want.

The lawsuits date back to 2013 and also alleged that the Met was barred from charging visitors any amount of money under a law from the 1800s when the museum signed its original lease with the city. But during difficult financial times in the 1970s the museum instituted the suggested admissions policy requiring some minimal contribution. And a judge affirmed that suggested admission policy saying that ending it would undermine the museum’s finances and mission.

There are, however, some other issues regarding the confusing cost of attending the Met that still linger. The Met’s website states that “if you buy tickets at a museum ticket counter, the amount you pay is up to you” and notes “please be as generous as you can.” It then lists the suggested admission as $25 for adults, $17 for seniors and $12 for students older than 12.

But wait. There’s a catch.Met Costs

If you want to “avoid waiting in admission lines!” and purchase tickets online you must pay the suggested admission prices.

The website also states that admission is free to members. But wait, if you can pay what you want at the counter — even just a penny — then why would you pay to become a member?

And there are deals online — such as this one below that allow you to “skip” the line by purchasing a $25 ticket — which fail to mention the museum’s in-person pay-what-you-want policy.

Met Ticket Price

Other museums, such as the American Museum of Natural History, also offer suggested admission prices. I’d suggest — not recommend (of course) — that if you want to avoid any confusion about an entrance fee, show up in person and tell the cashier exactly what you want to pay.

Fran Silverman

Fran Silverman, former editor of, believes in the watchdog role of journalists who can empower and inform consumers through news and education.

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