The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles has decided to go free. The museum announced this weekend that it would no longer require a general admissions fee, although it will still charge for entry to special exhibitions.
The new policy, which will go into effect “as soon as possible,” according to the museum, is made possible by a $10 million donation by the president of the museum’s board, Carolyn Clark Powers.
General adult admission to the museum currently costs $15. A total of $1.3 million in revenue—roughly seven percent of MOCA’s annual budget—came from ticket sales last year. Powers’ donation will cover the next five years, the museum told the Los Angeles Times.
While the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York recently enacted a mandatory ticket fee for out-of-towners, MOCA is one of several Southern California museums to go free in an effort to expand audiences.
“Art has the unique ability to bridge cultural and socioeconomic divides,” Powers said in a statement. “Charging admission is counterintuitive to art’s ability and purpose to connect, inspire, and heal people.”
MOCA welcomed 284,160 visitors in 2018—a meager figure compared to the 800,000-plus visitors that the Broad, located across the street from its Grand Avenue location and free since it opened in 2015, attracts annually. The Hammer, which brought in 251,943 people last year, has seen its visitor numbers increase nearly 25 percent since it instituted its own free admission policy in 2014.
“I think many of us are at a point where we understand that museums should not be ivory towers,” Klaus Biesenbach, director of the museum, told the New York Times. “MOCA should feel like a public library where you can go and have access to culture.”
Biesenbach took over the museum last year after spending more than two decades at the helm of MoMA PS1. In 2015, he put in place a policy that allowed New Yorkers to visit that museum free for one year.
Powers’s gift was announced during the museum’s annual benefit on Saturday night at its Geffen Contemporary satellite space. The event has been a subject of fierce debate in recent years; last year’s gala was canceled after its honoree, artist Mark Grotjahn, withdrew. This year’s affair was attended by artists including Ed Ruscha, Betye Saar, and Mark Bradford as well as celebrities such as a Keanu Reeves and Katy Perry. It raised more than $3 million in funds that will be put toward general operations.
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