It’s rare to see two smart, thoughtful writers blurt out such ill-considered thoughts on a subject they refuse to think seriously about. It’s a cliché to talk about the entitlement of the art world.
And yet in response to the Met’s new admission’s policy, The New York Times asked its art critics, Holland Cotter and Roberta Smith, for their thoughts. What followed is a contradictory set of emotionally-driven politically-naive opinions.
Those opinions range from silly solutions to complex problems to irresponsible political analogies. Let’s start with Smith’s belief that the suggested admissions price would work if only the Met were better at selling it:
So hire a really good design firm to formulate some kind of counter campaign, signage with tons of jokes cajoling people who have the means to pay the suggested fee. Like “If you’re wearing mink, or a bespoke suit, or if your entire outfit totals out at more than $3,500, think about dropping $25 to visit the greatest museum in the world. You’ll be helping others who can’t afford your wardrobe.”
From there they veer into overblown political comparisons that denigrate the very real issues they are trying to graft upon this civic one. Cotter thinks asking people for identification is a threat to the undocumented. Smith follows up on that comparing the effort to Nativism:
So I worry that the Met’s plan is classist, and nativist. It divides people into categories — rich and poor, native and foreign — which is exactly what this country does not need right now. I think this is tied to the abstract way wealth is accrued these days. In the last Gilded Age the rich had a much more literal sense of the suffering their fortunes were built on and a greater need to give back.
Calling discrimination against non-New Yorkers Nativism, at a time when the country is witnessing a virulent spread of bigotry and fear, diminishes the term. Is it wrong to ask non-residents to help subsidize the pay-what-you-wish policy for locals who need it? And Smith should really read up on the history of the Met and its founding before she makes an ignorant statement about the Gilded Age’s self-awareness.
The Met was explicitly founded as a means to control immigrant working class New Yorkers, to suppress their folk cultures and political resistance with the ruling class of New York’s values and cultural ideas.
The Met Should Be Open to All. The New Pay Policy Is a Mistake. (The New York Times)