Dia: Chelsea to go admission-free

Dia: Chelsea to go admission-free
Dia: Chelsea exterior. © Dia Art Foundation, New York. Photo: Do Stahl. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation, New York.
Leading lights

Around this time, next year, New York’s Dia: Chelsea will reopen its doors boasting a site-specific installation by Renata Lucas, a Brazilian artist. Traditionally, the institution’s Chelsea location has had an admissions fee but when it reopens in September 2020, it will nix the entry cost in the hopes of attracting more people to come and experience the gallery and Lucas’ work.

‘The idea is that if it’s a show that’s on for six or nine months that you would come back and see it on multiple occasions in different light,’ at different times of the year, feeling different, being different,’ said Jessica Morgan, director of the Dia Art Foundation in an interview with The New York Times, which reflected her statement in Dia’s press release. ‘Quite often,’ she added, ‘our projects are either long term or even permanent.’ When Dia: Chelsea reopens, their new stance on admission will make it easier for people to do exactly that: visit the gallery and its exhibitions more than once. It might also encourage those who have been deterred from Dia or other galleries, in general, in the past due to the cost of admission.

The choice to forgo admission fees is one of many preparations the gallery is undergoing for Lucas’ piece, which has been in the works for almost five years. Lucas’ work is one that speaks to the core of Dia: Chelsea, according to Morgan. ‘She’s engaged with our own renovation and how our building is changing and how that relates to the old building across the street and all the other changes that have happened in this area,’ said Morgan of Lucas. As part of the process for her new work, Lucas reportedly visited a number of Dia’s land art works to get a handle on other Dia artists and how they’ve grappled with similar issues and topics. This will also be Lucas’ first commission for a US institution. Following the installation of Lucas’ work, Dia: Chelsea will present a new series of works by Lucy Raven, which will go on show in March 2021.

When Dia: Chelsea reopens, it will join five other Dia sites that are admissions-free with another, Dia: SoHo, to join them without fees in the autumn of 2022.

In addition to Dia, other museums, galleries, and institutions around the globe are slowly starting to wade into the admission-free world. Most recently, the Smithsonian Mag hosted their 15th annual Museum Day in which hundreds of museums across the US offered free entry. However, some of those museums are free throughout the year, including most museums that are part of Smithsonian Institutions.

However, not all museums are able to go without entrance fees. Some, who might not be able to operate totally admissions-free, have introduced other schemes to draw in more people and keep them coming back. Earlier this year, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago hosted an exhibition of photography by Laurie Simmons. During the exhibition, which ran from February 24th through May 5th, the museum offered a ticket bracket to highlight the gender pay gap. For those who felt they were affected by the wage gap, they paid only 81% of the usual $15 entrance fee. The Art Gallery of Ontario is another organization that has created a new ticketing price bracket and, in their case, a new membership as well. Beginning in May, those younger than 25 would receive free admission to the museum while anyone older than 25, they could get a year-long museum membership for C$35. Soon, Dia: Chelsea will join the ranks of such museums and hopefully, they accomplish their goal to keep people coming back for more.