Monday 3 October 2011

Paying through the nose

A few weeks ago on the radio I talked about the Oceania exhibitions at Te Papa and City Gallery (in brief: Te Papa surprisingly good; City Gallery surprisingly dull).

The thing that exercises me most about this show - content and presentation aside - is the entry charge. Now, sure, $10 is not a lot for two shows. But given that there's funding from MCH, and that the City Gallery show is about half made up of Te Papa collection items, and that it's these two institutions' jobs to put on exhibitions, I felt that I'd already paid that $10 a couple of times through taxes and rates.

I can only assume that the entry charge is meant to capitalise on the intended audience for the exhibitions - the people visiting for the Rugby World Cup. Based on the afternoon I spent at the two exhibitions, it's not exactly going to be a money spinner. City Gallery was as deserted as I've ever seen it, and the rest of Te Papa was heaving, but I would have spent that 90 minutes with a handful of other people.

It also interests me that this is the third paid show (including Kusama and Crown Lynn) since City Gallery reopened following renovations in late 2009. In fact, if you total the three runs up (Kusama 27 Sept 2009 - 7 Feb 2010; Crown Lynn 29 Jan - 25 April 2011; Oceania 6 Aug - 6 Nov 2011) that's verging on a year's worth of charged shows.

In this case, $10 doesn't feel like a valid attempt to recover costs, but a hurdle that's keeping visitors out. And that's particularly sad in the case of Te Papa, as this is a show more people should see.

If you want to read something more coherent and insightful about entry charges, you might like to check out these two recent Art Newspaper pieces: To charge or not to charge and New York's great museums could do better.

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