Thursday, January 16, 2014

Culture: Carrots And Sticks - The Strategy At Frick Collection, New York City

(Drivebycuriosity) - Museums need tons of money. American museums usually collect their funds from donors, like the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and others. But museums also charge entrance fees and they sell memberships to bolster up their revenues.

I seems that the Frick Collection, a fine art museum on Manhattan´s Upper East Side (, uses a special strategy to gain more paying members. I call it carrots and sticks.

They charge $20 for admission (seniors $15, students $10). On Sundays visitors pay what they wish. A membership, which includes unlimited admission for one year and other benefits, costs usually $75 (there are different rates for students, couples and people who live outside New York City) .

I understand that a membership is a way for affluent people to support culture and the museums. But people who have just an average income and have to pay high rents in New York City usually skip costly memberships, considering that the metropolis has more gorgeous museums which also offer costly memberships.

This week I learned - somewhat belatedly - that the Frick has an exhibition of Dutch Masters, including Vermeer´s "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and Fabricius`"The Goldfinch", which got popularized by Donna Tart´s bestseller with the same name. This show ends next Sunday January 19th. Therefore I figured that there would be long lines.

Online advance tickets for the show were already sold out!. But tickets were still offered for purchase at the admissions desk. How can a online ticket, a virtual item, be sold out, when the physical access is still available? Anyway, people who wanted to see the show shortly before it ends had to choose between waiting in the line or buying a membership. I guess this is a strategy, the "stick", to encourage interested persons to buy a membership.

I decided to wait in line and to buy an advance ticket for the next day at the admission desk for me and my wife because she has a regular office job and doesn´t have the time on weekdays to wait in line (The museum closes at 6 pm). The last weekend of the show could have much longer lines or even be sold out.

Yesterday around 11.10 am I arrived at the Frick Collection to buy a ticket for admission today at 12pm. There already  was a waiting line which reached around 3 corners - maybe the length of 1 1/2 blocks. The line moved very slowly because the museum staff allowed just a small group of people to enter the building at a time. During the waiting time a member of the museum staff approached people in the line and offered a membership which permitted to skip the line and to access the show immediately. Shortly before the entrance there also was a sign that announced that visitors could skip the line by buying a membership.

I refused - as most of the waiting people - did. Finally, around 12.45 I arrived at the museum´s box office and got the timed tickets for today.

The show was great. Yesterday while waiting in the line I heard the comment "a once in the lifetime event". Absolutely! - Membership or not.

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