Two members of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are suing over the museum's admissions policy, according to a report in The New York Times.
Their issue stems from the iconic museum's original lease with New York City, which specified that the museum had to be accessible free of charge to guests several days a week.
The plaintiffs, Theodore Grunewald and Patricia Nicholson, argue that the museum "deceive[s] and defraud[s]" the public by making it difficult to understand the fee policy, arguing the museum makes the $25 fee for adults, $17 for seniors, and $12 for students appear mandatory and not simply suggested, according to The New York Times.
In their suit, the pair site a survey they commissioned in which more than 360 museum visitors were asked if they knew the admissions fee was optional. 85 percent responded they believed the fee was required, and that they had to pay in order to enter the Met. 65 percent said they had signed up for yearly memberships, which cost $70 (and higher, depending on the category) a year, so they could get in for free.
Grunewald and Nicholson are now asking the court to prevent the museum from charging any fees whatsoever, according to the NYT.
Harold Holzer, a rep for the museum, told The New York Post that the suit was "frivolous." The museum says that changes in city policy back in the 1970s allowed it to institute a voluntary admission fee. There are also signs above the museum's admissions desks that say the fee is only "Recommended" and a brief sentence on the museum's website that reads: "To help cover the costs of exhibitions, we ask that you please pay the full recommended amount."
According to The New York Times, when the recommended fee was first instituted in the 1970s, the signs said, "Pay what you wish, but you must pay something."
Each year, 6 million New Yorkers visit the Met, 250,000 of which are New York City schoolchildren who get in for free. In addition, special exhibitions in the museum are free with admission, the notable exception being the immensely popular "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" exhibit in 2011 that charged $50 for special admission after it extended the event.