MFA Boston Plans $200 ‘Clock’-Watching Party

A still from Christian Marclay's "The Clock" (2010) (White Cube and Paula Cooper Gallery)

After drawing large crowds at the White Cube gallery in London, the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Venice Biennale, Christian Marclay’s 24-hour film The Clock, which is comprised of thousands of short clips from a variety of movies that show time passing in real time, will go on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on Sept. 17., at the opening of its contemporary art wing.

The ticket price? $200, which breaks down to about $8 per hour.

MFA officials argue that the steep admission price is to cover the cost of keeping the museum open through the night–the film will run from 7 p.m. on Sept. 17 to 7 p.m. the next day–and covering other aspects of the party, which includes food, drink and a performance by Irish artist Amanda Coogan, but the Boston Globe reports that some people are not pleased with the ticket price.

Artist and Kingston Gallery director Ilona Anderson called the price “revolting,” and added, “If they want to cultivate an audience for contemporary art, they need to make it available. It shouldn’t be exclusive.” And Ashley Lee, who writes about museum admissions fees, offered this trenchant argument: “Treating it as a gala opener and disrespecting its true, 24-hour purpose really degrades the work.”

The museum says that it will schedule other 24-hour screenings of the film, without the $200 ticket price, later in the year. The rest of the time, it will be visible to the general public only during museum hours, meaning a vast section of the film will go largely unseen. The MFA also notes that the ticket price for the opening will decrease throughout the night. Arrive at 11 p.m. and admission is $100. At 3 a.m. it drops to $50, and it will become free at 7 a.m.

The Observer would like to float an alternative pricing scheme, which is sometimes adopted by organizers of Erik Satie’s Vexations piano piece, a work that can last for more than 18 hours. (It features 180 notes, which are repeated 840 times.) Instead of charging people based on their early arrival, this method involves charging people when they leave, rewarding people who stay longer.

At a 1963 performance in New York, to cite one example, people paid $5 to enter the theater, but received a refund of 5 cents for every 20 minutes they stayed, and those that made it through the entire show actually earned 20 cents. Granted, that model may not be the best way to raise money.

Update: The Israel Museum announced today that it plans to show a copy of The Clock, on loan from Mr. Marclay, beginning Aug. 23.

MFA Boston Plans $200 ‘Clock’-Watching Party