The Metropolitan Museum of Art Financial Problems

Subject: Art
Pages: 6
Words: 1701
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: PhD


The Metropolitan Museum of Art was established in the mid-1870s in New York. The main objective of founding this museum was to nurture the study of fine arts while advancing the application of arts to practical life. However, with the rapid social, economic, and technological changes that have been massively shaping society in recent years, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has been running in conditions of significant change. One of the many challenges facing this organization is the financial crisis. A financial crisis is a problem that occurs in nearly all organizations, but it is the way it is handled that determines its impact. This paper seeks to discuss the views of six authors concerning financial crises that have hit the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the last decade.

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As Hristoff notes, Western society is living through a time of massive change (par. 9). Thus, for art museums this dynamic landscape has been defined by shifts in growth as well as operational instabilities. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has not been an exception when addressing the issues of leadership, financial instability, and public relevance. As identified by Lyall in her article, there has been a lack of clarity on fees at the Metropolitan Museum (par. 7). Lyall suggests that the lack of clarity in admission criteria can lead to a financial crisis because people may be discouraged to visit the museum (par. 7). The fact that there have been contradictory realities about the admission fee continues to darken the future of the art museum as a symbol of massive wealth and a reflection of the public interest. Maxwell notes that American art museums are experiencing disagreement about their contributions to the community (par. 4). His work intends to provide the limelight for uncertainties affecting the institutions through introducing ways of mastering and gauging organizational success. Due to inadequate finances, it becomes a challenge for art managers to balance modernity with traditionalism. The lack of such balance continues to threaten the sustainability of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Globalization has brought different cultures together, and there is an increased need to consider the tastes and preferences of all generations and cultures particularly the non-American (“The Metropolitan Museum of Art” par. 6). These sentiments are shared by Panero, who claims that artworks at the Metropolitan Museum of Art represent different cultures but with a shared vision (par. 16). All these factors are attributable to lack of finances either directly or indirectly.

Financial problem

For the many decades the Metropolitan Museum of Art has existed, very few leaders embrace the power of art to inspire people’s lives. Despite its long existence, this museum is yet to realize the full value of the artworks offered. As a result, the will to increase funding for an art museum remains morally questionable when people are still languishing in poverty. While it might be relevant to prioritize some other development agendas, giving money to an art museum has been highly ignored. Despite the rising popularity and relevance of art museums, there has not been commensurate development in areas of funding. Those revenue setbacks have threatened the erosion of the fabric of culturally wealthy and a source of emotional inspiration. In 2009, following the changing relationship between the public and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum experienced financial crises. In response, the management froze hiring and raised the admission fee for adults by 2 dollars. Even though this move was meant to maintain sustainability, the idea further exacerbated the problem since the new fee reduced accessibility by most residents.

During the late 1990s when art museums sought to integrate traditionalism with modernism as well as cater for the interests of the emerging generation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art adopted poor criteria (Panero par. 9). The art board approved costly investments that in the short run resulted in massive spending and bloated budgets. Financial problems began and ran through to the current decade. Meanwhile, the management of the Metropolitan Museum is experiencing cash flow issues shaking its operations at all levels. Compounding the Metropolitan’s woes, New York City reduced its financial backup for the museum, associated obligations such as insurance, and continued learning of staff have left the future financial state of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at risk (Lyall par. 14).

Consequently, this situation has left once-stable arts firms in a precarious state and the ones already emerging might not survive the financial crisis arising in the world of art. Furthermore, the reluctance by the management to introduce a well-defined criterion of admission reduces the value of art, and many people end up visiting alternative sites for leisure and recreation. The reason is that not all people can afford the fee rates. Since the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a destination known for its high resilience offering a broader and connected view of the world heritage, it should remain accessible to all. However, it is the managerial decisions to blame for the storm hitting the art sector rather than the reductions in government support. The root of the problem is that the management has failed to institute a proper way of measuring success. If this museum can generate a proper way to measure performance, then it could be easy for donors to fund the organization. Ultimately, all these issues as raised by the different authors revolve around the aspect of poor leadership within the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The solutions

Few remedies have been availed to these financial crises. As aforementioned, the failure to understand the role and significance of art museums within the modern audience is an emerging problem facing art managers in the Western societies. However, radical opinions such as the rise of admission fees and freezing enrollment are some of the viable solutions (Campbell par. 6). Within the raging differences from various quarters and vastly opposing opinions, art managers and leaders have had the opportunity to reflect and find solutions to such problems from the public’s perspective. Most of the immediate decisions taken by this organization were not favorable even though served the purpose of salvaging the crumbling art sector. Beginning in early months of 2009, enrollment for new workers reduced significantly compared to previous years. Eventually, vast numbers of workers were laid off, and admission fee increased to cover expenditure (Hristoff par. 11). Unfortunately, in such perilous economic periods, the public had to bear with high admission fees.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art also employed the method of altering the system to generate capital. During the financial crisis, this organization permitted the sale of selected artworks to fund the purchase of modern artworks. This organization also engaged in the sponsorship of poor minority schoolchildren in its music development program. This new move motivated some arts donors such as Eli Broad, who pledged $ 425,000 for four years (Panero par. 13). This financial support has in return improved the quality of artworks that attract visitors all over the world. Besides, relying on borrowed and donated works of art helped this organization to remain relevant during the period of a financial crisis. The Metropolitan Museum of Art also introduced learning programs for workers to increase professionalism. Visitors should also be allowed to pay as little as they can instead of preventing them visiting the premises. This incentive ensures that the Museum collects more revenues from the public.

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However, some of the lessons art managers and leaders might have learned from analyzing this problem include methods of survival in times of financial breakdown and prioritization of their grievances. Moreover, other lessons include, merging contemporary and historical art to reflect the emerging public interest, as well as developing ways to generate funds internally. The arts managers through experience can attest that reducing expenditure through layoffs is a sure way of survival. These layoffs reflect that the museums matter, not only as attractive destinations but also as a critical element of inspiration for generations (Maxwell par. 5). Eventually, art managers and leaders are gradually coming to an agreement that art activities are not competing with personal priorities but complementing them. Museum leaders might have also learned the importance of staff diversity. The caliber of museum’s staff should factor in all people from minority groups. The museum leaders might also have learned the importance of quality and diversification of exhibitions. Through quality presentations, managers might have learned the contributions they make regarding visitor turnout. The managers might also have developed a better understanding of how to meet the annual expenses by encouraging visitors to contribute as they can.

One of the major aspects to ensuring public support is ensuring that the organization understands well the needs of the people. The Metropolitan Museum of Art managers might have learned how to interact with its customers from diverse cultures. However, this has made it easy to generate funds internally through membership contributions and sales. Currently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art boasts new Islamic, Chinese, and African galleries among others. This access to various cultures has instigated huge public interest for Americans and non-Americans. Furthermore, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is successfully interconnecting historical and contemporary art through learning programs. Arts depict what is the potency of innovation, they link, inspire and enlighten diverse cultures toward a common goal. Besides, this organization embraces racial diversity in both staff and audience. This diversity means that future financial sustainability will be easy since the museum continues to attract an audience from all regions. This emerging notion serves as a predictor that the doomed art industry will survive the financial crisis as well as win public support.


The ability of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to respond to the changing cultural needs will determine its future financial sustainability. This ability is necessary because the high percentage of its revenues comes from admission fees. Besides, the organization’s ability to balance contemporary and traditional art will also determine its financial sustainability. Although few solutions have been presented, it is worth noting that these solutions if not well articulated could easily compound the problem. For example, the issue of raising admission fees to cushion expenditure should consider the low-income earners in society. Ultimately, this article provides arts managers and leaders with ideas to tackle financial problems.


Campbell, Thomas. A Reflection from Davos the Metropolitan Museum of Art 2015. Web.

Hristoff, Peter. My Met: Peter Hristoff’s Connections with the Museum 2015. Web.

Lyall, Sarah. “Seeking Clarity on Fees at the Metropolitan Museum.” New York Times. 2013. Web.

Maxwell, Anderson. The Getty Leadership Institute 2015. Web.

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Panero, James. “The culture crash.” Forbes. 2009. Web.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Collections Management Policy 2015. Web.