The Met Museum’s Attendance Reached 7 Million Last Year, Hardly Dented by Its Controversial Admission Fee

It appears that a $25 admission fee isn't keeping crowds from visiting the museum.

Director Max Hollein presents the programme for the coming months at the Met. Photo: Benno Schwinghammer & Getty Images.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art welcomed more than seven million visitors across its three locations for the third year in a row—a feather in the museum’s cap and a retort to those who wondered whether its controversial admission policy would cause attendance to crater.

This fiscal year, which ended on June 30, marked the first full fiscal term under the Met’s mandatory admission policy for out-of-town visitors. The result suggests that most of those determined to visit the Met will are willing to pay $25 for the privilege.

Still, there was significant fluctuation. Attendance is down 350,000 from the fiscal year of 2018, when the museum drew a record 7.35 million visitors. There was also a shift in the ratio of locals (who can visit free) to out-of-towners (who must pay). The Met reported that international tourists accounted for 28 percent of its visitors in the 2019 fiscal year—down from 34 percent in 2018. By contrast, New York City residents made up 35 percent of the overall total, up from 32 percent last year.

The Met Cloisters, the museum’s uptown venue dedicated to Medieval art, saw record attendance this year thanks in large part to the Costume Institute exhibition “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” which was spread across the Fifth Avenue location and the Cloisters. It became the most popular exhibition in the museum’s history with more than one million visitors, displacing a 40-year-old record held by a show of King Tut’s treasures.

Figures (in million) for attendance 2007-2017. Courtesy of Statista.

Figures (in million) for attendance 2007–17. Courtesy of Statista.

The gold medal for Met attendance is still held by the fiscal year of 2018, thanks in large part to blockbuster shows like “Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer” (702,516 visitors), a David Hockney retrospective, and the first two months of “Heavenly Bodies.”

The first time the Met eked past the 7 million marker was in fiscal year 2016, when it welcomed 7.01 visitors across the Met Fifth Avenue, the Cloisters, and the Met Breuer, which opened in March of that year. At the time, the museum touted the number as the highest ever since it began tracking visitor attendance 40 years prior.

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