Members Only

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I just received the request to renew my membership to MoMA and was reminded of a funny story.

I have been a MoMA member for probably 20 years. I feel it's important to support the institutions that are valuable to me (and of course the discounts, members' previews and avoiding the long ticket lines are a plus).  When I moved my studio to Massachusetts, I was able to get an "International" membership for $70 instead of the $85 I had been paying as an "Individual" here in New York. Same benefits. (I'd had an "Artist" membership for years, but when I got a raise at a good job I had at one point, I decided to be bit more financially supportive and paid extra for the Individual.)

Somewhere along the line "International" got changed to "Global" and with it the ability to enter the museum early during members' hours was curtailed. When I went recently, I was asked to wait until regular museum hours to enter.

"Can artist members get in early?" I asked.
"Yes," replied the woman at the desk.
"Great. I'm an artist."
"Well, can you prove that?" she asked.
"Sure. Here's my business card."
"No " she said, arching her back slightly. "We need proof from a gallery."
"I can do better than that," I said. "You can hear from the dealer herself."

I introduced Marcia Wood, owner of the gallery that bears her name in Atlanta. She had just arrived to meet me for early entry.

"I'm sorry, said the membership person, whose back by now was so arched she  could see the wall behind her. "We'll need written proof on gallery letterhead."

At this point it was 10:30 and the general public was being let in, so it became a non issue.

But here's the thing: When I renew next month it will be with a $50 artist membership--I have proof--so generosity be damned, I'll actually pay less for a membership that gives me more.

Artists: You do know about the Artist Membership at MoMA, right? You have to ask for it. And you have to provide documentation, such as exhibition postcard or catalog. You can be an artist from anywhere. You just have to be "documented." Info here.


Angus Austin said...

Thank you for this post.

Lynda Cole said...

Thanks Joanne. I'll make use of this information.

Nancy Natale said...

You hit the jackpot with that dufus! She was probably getting a cut of the door. Some people just want to be a pain in the ass - and they usually succeed.

Oriane Stender said...

Ha! Marcia sidling up reminds me of the scene in Annie Hall when Marshall Mcluhan gets trotted out to tell Obnoxious Guy in movie ticket line, "you know nothing of my work." But it seems it was lost on Arched Back Lady.

Joanne Mattera said...

I totally forgot about that scene in Annie Hall. Museum lady wasn;t having any of it.

Meagan Johnson said...

Dear Joanne,
Hello, Meagan Johnson here – director of membership at MoMA. I was dismayed to hear about your visit and wanted to truly apologize for any negativity in the transaction. It’s true that the Global category has been shifted a bit to serve a large constituency of MoMA members who live at a distance and have expressed an interest in digital, rather than onsite, benefits. But as you noted, the Artist membership is exactly the same as the Individual category - just discounted. As you might imagine, that discount drives tons of interest in the category. This is why we require proof that an artist is represented by, or has shown or performed in, a gallery or museum setting in the past two years. As you noted, Membership is a fundraising arm that supports the Museum’s operations and educational programs, and the discounted $50 Artist price is intended to make membership more affordable for working artists — those trying to make a living making art. We all recognize that can be a tough road! The requirements notwithstanding, there’s no reason that you should have been treated with anything less than openness, honesty, and courtesy. I appreciate your candor about the encounter, as it helps me address service issues – and I really do hope you’ll choose to continue on as a member in whichever category works best for you. Thanks for your longtime support. It really does mean a lot.

Joanne Mattera said...

Thanks so much for your comment. I have every intention of remaining a MoMA supporter and attendee. I also buy books and have lunch at the museum. (And I have blogged about numerous shows.)

Aside from the frustration that morning of wanting to get in as the member I am, it was amiusing (but also irritating) to actually be there with a gallerist who represents me and having the membership person be so rigid. Especially now, so many galleries are doing away with print postcards and catalogs in favor of web-based promotional materials. A quick visit to a gallery website--I offered to access it on my iPad--would have identified me and the gallery on the spot.
Anyway, I'll make sure I come with a stack of proof when I renew next month.

Oriane Stender said...

Good for Meagan Johnson for showing up to respond. And excellent point, Joanne, that the desk person could have looked up the Marcia Wood website on the spot. There were probably about 5 internet sources instantly accessible amongst the 3 of you.

Martin said...

Visited your wonderful blog this morning & enjoying it very much. Compliments!

Unknown said...

Oog. Arched Back Lady might have been having a tough day, not fun to have an experience like that when getting ready for the fantastic artwork which MoMa exhibits. It is reassuring to see the director of membership Meagan Johnson so quick to respond to your post!