Metropolitan Museum of Art - Case Study

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Executive Summary

The New York Metropolitan Museum of the Art is a non-profit institution with an established history as a behemoth of the artistic world. It was founded and maintains today the mission of “establishing and maintaining in the city of New York a museum and library of art, of encouraging and developing, the study of the fine arts, and the application of arts to manufacturing and practical life, of advancing the general knowledge of kindred subjects, and, to that end, of furnishing popular instruction.” Although the museum has run a deficit in the past two years, faces the prospect of rising operating expenses and lacks consistent strategy in its initiatives, it has strong fundamentals which include a membership base of over 100,000, nearly 5,000,000 visitors every year, successful auxiliary operations, a growing endowment, a dynamic body of art and artefacts, and a bold management team that has proven its willingness to evolve.

The Levitt approach to solving the financial downturn begins with restructuring the management to identify an understood budget for artistic direction. It also includes implementing mandatory admission fees rather than suggested ones and strategically pricing these membership fees. The hours of operation will be more accommodating for a wider demographic. There will be two blockbusters hosted twice a year, during the peak tourist seasons. The Met will strengthen its relationship with New York University, as well as expand to Columbia University. Sponsorships will also grow as a consequence of the improved value package of better relationships with local colleges and improved children’s educational programs. In addition, the floor plan will be reorganized to reduce crowds and thereby encourage more visitors. The retail stores will be expanded nationally and better manage their inventories through a point of sale system. Furthermore, the Met will reach out to potential visitors by advertising through the two of the most widely-read publications in New York City, the New York Times and the New Yorker. Through this strategy, the Met is only taking the next logical step in its evolution, while maintaining the whole of its artistic integrity.

Current Situation

Management – The Met is operating under a dual management system, with a president (William H. Leurs) responsible for business and operations, and a director (Philippe de Montebello) responsible for the curatorial and artistic duties that have been with the museum since 1978. Although duties should be distinct, there is still some overlap and conflict between the two roles, regarding spending and the acquisition of donations of art and money.

Government Support – The Met receives funding from the City of New York to cover its building maintenance and utilities costs. Funding is also provided by the State and Federal governments; however this funding fluctuates with the economy and is out of the museum’s control. It is trending at increasing at a decreasing rate.

Fundraising – Although formal fundraising initiatives are new to the museum, the five-year initiative ended in 1987 was successful in generating $150 million. Current initiatives include endowed chairs, corporate sponsorship of exhibitions, gifts of art and money, and memberships. Corporations are reluctant to give to arts organizations, but studies show that 38% of corporate support goes towards education. Gifts have been decreasing because of tax reforms. However, while total memberships decreased because of price increases, revenue from membership increased 7%.

Admissions & Blockbusters – The Met is the number one tourist attraction in New York City and there were 4,702,078 visitors to the museum in the year ended June 30, 1991. Previous experiments have shown that blockbusters (one-time special exhibitions that appeal to a more popular crowd) have been wildly successful at generating revenue. Without blockbusters in 1990, revenue decreased 27%, while...
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