LOS ANGELES — The Museum of Contemporary Art here is planning to eliminate general ticket charges, aligning it with the Broad and the Hammer Museum, which already offer free admission. The policy is being made possible by a $10 million donation by the board president, Carolyn Clark Powers, which was announced at the museum’s Saturday night benefit party.
The museum’s director, Klaus Biesenbach, called the decision a “step toward being more porous, more welcoming and more open.” Asked whether he was inspired by the example of other museums in town, he said he was an advocate of free museum entry long before he moved to Los Angeles last year, noting that he instituted free admission at MoMA PS1 for New Yorkers in 2015 when he ran that museum.
“I think many of us are at a point where we understand that museums should not be ivory towers,” he said. “MOCA should feel like a public library where you can go and have access to culture.” Mr. Biesenbach noted that Ms. Powers’s gift would enable the museum to offset the loss of its $15 general admission fee (there will still be fees for special exhibitions) and to expand its educational programs and visitor services staff.
“This is not a badge for me,” Ms. Powers said in a statement. “Rather, it’s a way for me to support the museum and be of service to the Los Angeles community,” she said, describing “diversity, inclusiveness and openness of spirit” as museum priorities. “Charging admission is counterintuitive to art’s ability and purpose to connect, inspire, and heal people,” she said.
While some New York museums have increased their fees and the Metropolitan Museum of Art switched last year from a suggested to mandatory payment for most out-of-state visitors, the contemporary art museums in Los Angeles, where cultural tourism is not as strong, have been going the other direction in an attempt to broaden their audiences.
The Broad, across the street from MOCA, has been free for all but special exhibitions since opening in September 2015 and has consistently drawn more than 750,000 visitors annually. The Hammer, affiliated with the University of California at Los Angeles, stopped charging in 2014 and has seen a boost of about 25 percent over that period, drawing 251,943 visitors last year.
MOCA had 284,160 visitors in 2018. Mr. Biesenbach said he does not have specific projections for future attendance. “I’m not counting on the audience doubling or tripling, I think that would be the wrong goal. If we have 5,000 people come who wouldn’t come otherwise, that is important,” he said.
He said he did not have a date yet for when the museum would initiate the new admission policy but would “work on the rollout immediately.”