Metropolitan Museum of Art Attendance Has Dropped by Around Half

Since the pandemic began, the Met has become far less able to rely on international travelers for ticket sales.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 18, 2021. Liao Pan/China News Service via Getty Images

The pandemic has certainly not been kind to American arts institutions, and there’s ample data to back this up: according to a museum spokesperson, the current daily number of people who visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art is approximately half of the pre-pandemic count. Additionally, international travelers used to make up around a third of the Met’s attendees; post-pandemic, the dearth of travelers has contributed significantly to dwindling visitor numbers. This is also a significant blow because foreign visitors are required to pay $25 to access the Met, while New Yorkers are permitted to pay what they wish.

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Attendance isn’t the only problem museums are facing. Earlier this year, an American Alliance of Museums report found that 39% of full-time museum staffers reported having lost income during the pandemic, and that 67% of surveyed U.S. museums had to cut education programming due to slashed budgets. The Met, inarguably one of the most powerful and prominent arts institutions in the U.S., has even considered deaccessioning works from its collection in order raise funds to care for its archives.

“The Met is an encyclopedic museum that collects art from 5,000 years of human creativity,” Ken Weine, a spokesman for the Met, told the New York Times. “Core to the Met mission is presenting this art to New Yorkers and to people around the world. We’ve really missed that.” As winter looms, without the voluminous influx of holiday travelers and sightseers that New York could previously rely upon, it stands to reason that things could get truly unstable for certain institutions. Sure, the Met may have a $3.6 billion endowment, but without a steady stream of eager patrons, the midtown building might as well be a relic-filled tomb.

Meanwhile, the Met is focusing on combing its collection for potentially looted relics that should be returned to their countries of origin.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Attendance Has Dropped by Around Half