Met Museum Apologizes to Members Over McQueen Line Mess

By Amy Zimmer on August 11, 2011 4:09pm 

One of the items on display as part of the
One of the items on display as part of the "Savage Beauty" Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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Metropolitan Museum of Art

MANHATTAN — The Metropolitan Museum of Art sent a contrite letter to its members following its crowd management fiasco during the last days of its smash hit Alexander McQueen show, when it stopped letting members invoke their promised privilege of cutting the line.

"Some of you may have heard — or experienced — the fact that in the final days of McQueen, record-shattering visitor lines began winding around the building and well into Central Park, sometimes extending three hours just to enter the Museum for another two-hour wait inside," museum director Thomas Campbell wrote in an email sent to members this week.

"At that point, the Met was compelled to suspend the offer it made at the launch of the show for special membership access past the entry lines to the exhibition galleries," he wrote. "Unfortunately, it became impossible to continue providing such access once it began slowing all other visitor lines."

But the Costume Institute's "Savage Beauty" exhibit of the works of the late British fashion designer McQueen — which attracted more than 660,000 from May 4 and was extended a week to Aug. 7, making it the museum’s eighth most popular show of all time — did wonders for expanding the Met’s membership rolls.

During the exhibit's three-month run, roughly 25,000 new members signed up — many specifically doing so to enjoy special access to the McQueen show and discounts on the catalogue, which sold more than 100,000 copies.

"Our goal throughout this period of high demand was to balance our commitments to access and safety, for both our visitors and our collections,” Campbell wrote, adding that “members whom our staff encountered during these challenging final hours were understanding of the unprecedented crowd-control situation we were compelled to manage."

But many members — who pay between $75 and $200 in annual fees — were irate with the last-minute policy change during the show’s finale, especially since the museum had been actively selling memberships just days before with the promise of skipping the line.

“Its outrageous,” Kate Duterme, a 36-year-old interior designer from Queens, told DNAinfo last week as she was greeted by the change in membership rules.  She, however, found a way around the rules. The new mother — who said she had left her 3-month-old baby at home for the first time since her birth in order to see the exhibit — presented her case to museum officials and got in quicker.

Nearly 14,000 members took advantage of the museum’s exclusive early morning access to the show, including more than 2,000 alone who came between 8 and 9:30 a.m. on the show’s final morning, Campbell said.

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