Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Show them the door

As we’ve mentioned before, one of the first challenges for the new director of the City Gallery will be dealing with pressure for a door charge. City Gallery Overlords the Wellington Museums Trust are hot on the idea and have commissioned a report to give it some heft.

The report on both the City Gallery and the Museum of Wellington City and Sea is based on face-to-face interviews with 112 people visiting from outside Wellington and 95 people visiting from overseas. Another 1,119 were also consulted via an online survey: 313 from the city, 304 from the region and 502 from rest-of-NZ (unfortunately the all important questions used were not attached to the summary report made public). Also, to sweeten the deal it's proposed that locals (with id) will still get in free.

 Of the total respondents just under 30 percent were from Wellington City itself and 6.5 percent overseas visitors. So what did the rest-of-New Zealand (RON), the ones who are going to take the hit, have to say about paying for admission to the City Gallery? The door charge suggested in the survey was set rather high at $10. You can figure they will probably settle on a charge of $5 or under which was what 71 percent of the RONs thought it should be if there was to be a charge at all. Only 11 percent thought $10 was a reasonable amount to pay at the door although later in the report 39 percent thought $10 was a ‘fair price’ which doesn’t make much sense. More importantly for the City Gallery’s future, 56 percent said an entry charge would affect their decision to visit and with the all-free attractions of Te Papa just down the road, it’s not hard to figure out where they will be headed instead.

Chances are, in spite of the evidence world-wide that door charges stunt cultural institutions like art museums and the warning signs in its own report of decreased visitation, the Museums Trust will insist that the City Gallery initiate door charges.

A year into the future, when attendances have plummeted and the pressure is on to come up with more crowd-pleasers, let’s all remember that it was the Wellington Museums Trust that was responsible and not the director and staff of the gallery.