$10 Million in Free Museum Admissions

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles will use a $10 million gift to fund free general admission to the museum. Board of Trustees President Carolyn Clark Powers pledged the eight-figure gift during MOCA’s benefit on Saturday.

In a press release, the museum said it immediately would begin working on a roll-out plan to implement the gift as soon as possible. The gift comes seven months into Klaus Biesenback’s tenure as MOCA director and as the museum celebrates its 40th anniversary.

General admission to MOCA is free for all members and free to the public on Thursday evenings from 5 to 8 p.m. Otherwise, general admission typically is $15 for adults and $8 for students and $10 for senior citizens.
Founded in 1979, MOCA reported total revenue of $20 million on its most recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990, for the fiscal year ending June 2017. Program revenue totaled about $2.45 million, including $1.474 million classified as “admission fees.”

In the preceding two years, MOCA reported revenue of $22 million, including $985,000 in admission fees, and $44 million, including $707,000 in admission fees. In 2014, the museum reported significantly higher total revenues of $91 million as it reached its goal of $100 million to boost its endowment. That goal was reached in 2014, within less than 10 months, and MOCA planned to raise an additional $50 million. The campaign came months after a merger with Los Angeles County Museum of Art fell through.

Admission fees can sometimes be a quandary for museums and cultural institutions. The Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum announced a $24 admission fee ahead of its opening in 2014, drawing some criticism. The public, above-ground memorial, opened in 2011 remains free.

Just last year, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City changed its 50-year-old pay-what-you-wish policy for visitors outside of New York State. Tri-state area residents (including New Jersey and Connecticut) can still pay as they wish but visitors from outside the state have a mandatory admission fee of $25 for adults, $17 for seniors and $12 for students. Admission for children younger than 12 and members and patrons is still free.

The pay-as-you-wish model was not sustainable to fund daily operations, according to the museum. Admissions revenue comprises about 14 percent of the museum’s $300-million budget, with additional support from the city.
An agreement between the museum and the city called for sharing a portion of the new revenue with the city, to be distributed to organizations in underserved communities. Some $2.8 million in funding was announced in March, to be awarded to 175 cultural organizations.