The New York Times
November 18, 2004

What Is the Value of Priceless Art? Debate Continues on $20 Admission


When the Museum of Modern Art reopens on Saturday, admission will be free - for a day. On Sunday, the price goes up, to $20. And some art lovers are already protesting.
Filip Noterdaeme, a Belgian artist who founded the Homeless Museum, an online conceptual museum, is planning a peaceful protest outside the Modern's newly expanded home on Sunday.
"I'm all for celebrating MoMA's reopening,'' he said. "But I do object to the 63 percent increase.''
Before the Modern's home on 53rd Street closed for renovations in June 2002, adult admission was $12. J. P. Morgan Chase, with Target, is sponsoring the museum's free day.
Dan Levenson, a 32-year-old painter from Park Slope, Brooklyn, has been standing outside the museum this week, wearing a sandwich board with a $20 bill on it, passing out leaflets about his Web site,
"It's a museum's mission to keep their doors open, not to become an upscale brand like Gucci,'' Mr. Levenson said. "I understand their need to raise money. But their priorities are backwards.''
Mr. Levenson said his time outside the museum had yielded some interesting discussions. Artists have come up to support him; others have disagreed.
Online bloggers have been especially vocal, both pro and con. "MoMA could calm this tempest in a fur-lined teapot very easily by offering a money-back guarantee,'' wrote Greg Allen, a filmmaker, on his site, "After seeing the collection reinstalled in that spectacular building, only a true philistine - or a schnook - would think it's not worth it.''

Mr. Noterdaeme said he wanted to find out for himself. So on Tuesday evening, when guests at a pre-opening party included the artists Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, James Rosenquist and Rachel Whiteread, who have work on view, he managed to sneak past guards. Once inside, he distributed fliers that said, "Manhattan Is Robbed Again.''
He then talked with Glenn D. Lowry, the Modern's director, and Ronald S. Lauder, its chairman. "They were all very polite,'' he said. Despite what he called Mr. Lowry's "slick sell," he said, "it was clear we were in two very different camps.'' >
Mr. Lowry said he was not surprised by protests of the $20 admission and defended the fee, saying the museum receives no operating money from the government.
"If you think that museums should be free, campaign for a government that will support that,'' he said in a telephone interview yesterday. "We're in a country where there is a cost for culture.''

November 18, 2004, Thursday

What Is the Value Of Priceless Art?

Debate Continues On $20 Admission
By CAROL VOGEL (NYT) 453 words
Late Edition - Final , Section E , Page 3 , Column 5

Correction Appended

ABSTRACT - Debate continues over Museum of Modern Art's decision to raise admission price to $20 from $12; Belgian artist Filip Noterdaeme is planning peaceful protest outside newly expanded museum and Brooklyn painter Dan Levenson is already doing so; director Glenn Lowry defends fee, saying museum receives no operating funds from government.

Correction: December 14, 2004, Tuesday

An article in The Arts on Nov. 18 about the increase in the price of admission to the Museum of Modern Art, to $20 from $12, included an erroneous comment from the museum director, Glenn D. Lowry, about government support. The museum indeed receives operating funds from the government, having gotten $200,000 in the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years from the New York State Council on the Arts.