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27.10.07

French Museums Try Free Admission

We are so spoiled in Washington because the Smithsonian museums are free. It makes going to another museum where they charge you to enter almost offensive. The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum finally followed suit about a year ago. While the New York museums keep charging more and more outrageous entrance fees, now fourteen French museums will offer free admission, around the clock, for a trial period of six months (January 1 through June 30, 2008). This covers only the museums' permanent collections (you will still have to pay for any special exhibits), and a study will be made of how the offer affects attendance. Marie-Douce Albert had an article about the decision (Six mois de gratuité dans quatorze musées, October 24) for Le Figaro (my translation):

This concerns Parisian institutions, like the Musée de Cluny and the Musée Guimet, as well as in the provinces, like the Palais du Tau in Reims. The measure also concerns various artistic disciplines, like contemporary design at the Château d'Oiron or Renaissance history in Écouen. Furthermore, museums such as Air and Space at Le Bourget or Paris's Arts et métiers, which are controlled by the Ministries of Defense and Higher Education, have been enrolled in the program. While the major cultural institutions, already known for drawing large numbers of visitors, have been left out of the test, limited free admission offers will be tested in some Parisian museums. So, as the Louvre already does on Friday evening, the Musée national d'art moderne in the Centre Pompidou, the Musée d'Orsay and the Musée du Quai Branly will welcome 18- to 25-year-olds for free one time per week, between 6 and 9 pm.
So, if you are traveling in France during this period, don't trust your guide book. There may be a free entrance option at some point, and the way to let museum directors know that free admission is a good strategy is to go as much as you can during the free period. In particular, the museum of medieval art, in the Hôtel de Cluny (entrance shown in picture), is one of the most fabulous museums in the world, both for its site and building and its collection. To see that for free? If you are in Paris, you must go.

2 comments:

jfl said...

Moma being what it is aside, last time I was at the METropolitan, I paid exactly 1/2 cent to get in. Not to brag... but if you just want to take a quick look... a splash of culture... to be able to be piqued and intrigued for 30 minutes and then leave, without feeling guilty for not having gotten value for your hard earned money, that's really the way to go.

If you plan to stay there a day and study something in depth, you may feel better paying more... the point is (and it can't be mentioned often enough) that the amount of money you pay for the MET is up to you. As long as you pay something, you'll get in.

(Even if it is 1 ct. for you and your friend.)

Charles T. Downey said...

A fine point, something that I love to do in New York, too, pop in to the Met and weave around the slow-moving crowds to find a few favorite pieces. That is only possible because you can leave some change at the counter. It is actually a strategy that more museums should try. I think that a lot of people are happy to pay full price at the Met and can do so without feeling any pecuniary pain.

No go at the Modern or at the Guggenheim, where the staggering ticket price is mandatory, although both have some reduced-price time slots. Not much help when you are in town only for a day or two.