The cost of general admission to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is going up. Or down. Depending on how you look at it.
The museum has, over the last seven years, charged $15 for adult general admission and $25 for special exhibition admission (which includes entrance to the rest of the museum). Starting Thursday, LACMA will charge Los Angeles County adult residents $20 for general admission and will include special exhibitions in that price. The fee will be $25 for visitors who live outside of L.A. County.
“I’ve never liked the extra price for special exhibitions. We put some of the biggest efforts into the ticketed exhibitions and ironically, they’re the ones that are the most inaccessible, price wise,” LACMA Director Michael Govan said in an interview, citing the current special exhibition “Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage.” “Attendance will shoot up for ‘Chagall’ as soon as we change it because a lot of people just don’t pay the extra for the special shows.”
The new pricing structure, Govan said, “makes it much more accessible and simplifies the explanation of what’s on view. And the way we’re going to compensate for that, is charge a higher [general admission] price for tourists. The idea is to give more benefit to the taxpayers and charge a little bit more for tourists — and it should all even out.”
About 20% of LACMA’s audience is tourists, Govan said.
A different pricing structure for out-of-towners is not uncommon. At the Art Institute of Chicago, general admission is $20 for Chicago residents, $22 for Illinois residents and $25 for everyone else.
The new general admission prices at LACMA are in line with other major museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York ($25) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ($25) but higher than some other L.A. institutions. The Hammer Museum, which had charged $10, instituted free admission in 2014. The Museum of Contemporary Art charges $15 general admission. Admission to the Getty is free (though parking is $15 for most visitors).
Like many museums, LACMA will continue a tiered system: in-county seniors and students will pay $16 (an increase from $10), for instance. The museum said it has programs allowing visitors to attend for free, such as its NexGen program, where children under 17 attend for free with a guardian, and Free After Three, in which L.A. County residents get free general admission after 3 p.m. on weeknights.
“Last year we had 1.5 million visitors to LACMA and 750,000 of those people didn’t pay admission,” said Govan, who included in that tally visitors who paid for museum membership.
LACMA will continue to charge an additional fee for some exhibitions that the museum is calling Timed-Entry Experiences. Past examples include James Turrell’s Perceptual Cell “Light Reignfall” or the interactive “Rain Room” exhibition. Timed-Entry Experiences often have very limited capacity and are priced differently. Adult non-member admission to “Rain Room” was $30; for “Light Reignfall” it was $35.
Ticket revenue constitutes a small portion of LACMA’s budget.
“Most years it’s about 10%,” Govan said. “In the past it has ranged, depending on what the special exhibitions were. But the average contribution these days to the operating budget is about 10%.”
Follow me on Twitter: @debvankin