United States General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 General Government Division B-282307 April 1,1999 The Honorable Edolphus Towns House of Representatives Subject: National Gallerv of Art: Free Admission and Suecial Exhibition Ticket Distribution Policies Dear Mr. Towns: This letter is in response to your November 16,1998, request for information on the free admission policy of the National Gallery of Art (Gallery) and its contract for the distribution of tickets for major exhibitions held at the Gallery. On February 23,1999, we briefed your designated contact person on the results of our work. The following is a summary of the information that we provided on the four questions we were asked to answer. (1) What legallv would have to be done in order for the Gallerv to charge an admission fee? The bases for the Gallery’s free admission policy are (1) the provisions of a joint resolution of Congress approved in 1937, and (2) the 1937 trust indenture agreement signed by the A. W. Mellon Education and Charitable Trust, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Gallery. House Joint Resolution 217, approved on March 24,1937, authorized the construction and maintenance of the Gallery to house the works of art donated by Andrew W. Mellon. Mr. Mellon not only donated the art, but also the funds to construct the building to house the art. The federal government provided the land on which the Gallery was built. Section 4(a) of the resolution states that “the National Gallery of Art shall be at ah times properly maintained and the works of art contained therein shah be exhibited regularly to the general public free of charge.” [Underscoring supplied.] This provision was added by the Senate during deliberations on the resolution to prevent the Gallery from instituting an admission fee at some future date. Subsequently, on June 24,1937, a trust indenture agreement stipulating the conditions of the Mellon donation was signed by the A. W. Mellon Education and Charitable Trust, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Gallery. Section VII of the document, which covers the maintenance of the National Gallery of Art, specifies that “the works of art contained therein shall be exhibited regularly to the general public free of charge.” [Underscoring supplied.] The agreement also provides in section IX, which covers the alteration or modification of the indenture, that after the termination of the donor trust (the A W. Mellon Education and Charitable Trust), the agreement could be altered, modified, or supplemented upon approval of three-fourths of the Gallery Trustees and Smithsonian Regents. According to a Gallery Office of General Counsel official, the donor trust was terminated in 1980. Page 1 GAOIGGD-99-6lR Admission and Exhibition Ticket Policies B-282307 Consequently, for the GaUery to charge an admission fee to visitors, two actions wouId have to occur. Congress would have to amend the joint resolution to eliminate the prohibition on charging admission fees, and the Gallery Trustees and Smithsonian Regents would have to agree to simiIar revisions to the terms of the Mellon trust indenture agreement. (2) What would be the maximum admission fee that Congress could establish if the restrictive provisions were removed? Congress could set the admission fee at any level it deemed appropriate, or it could aRow the Gahery to set the fee. In the latter case, the GaUery could be directed to comply with Oftice of Management and Budget Circular No. A-25, which establishes federal policy governing user fees assessed by federal agencies for government services. According to the provisions of the circmar, user fees are to be based upon market prices or be sufficient to recover the fuIl cost of providing the service, depending on the specific circumstances involved. (3) What do other countries’ naJleries charge for admission? Using the Internet and a recent travel guide, we obtained fee information for 16 gaheries located in foreign countries. Available information showed that six of these galleries did not charge a general admission fee and that one, the Art Gallery of Ontario, located in Toronto, Canada, asked for a donation Two gaheries had a fixed general admission fee that ranged in equivalent U.S. do&us from $4.10 at the Scottish National GaUery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, Scotland, to $4.66 at the Galleria NazionaIe di Arte Modema in Rome, Italy. The other seven gaheries had varied fees that depended on factors such as age of the visitor and day of the week Several of these galleries had free admission on specified day(s) of each month. The maximum fees paid by visitors at these galleries when free admission was not avaiIable ranged in equivalent U.S. dollars from $2.31 at the New NationaI Gallery in Berlin, Gemany, to $8.74 at the Vatican Museums in Rome, Italy. At least eight gaIIeries, including six that did not have a general admission fee, charged for special exhibitions. Information on the amount of these fees was available only for the Louvre in Paris. It charged $5.17 (equivalent U.S. dollars) for special exhibitions in its Napoleon Hall. Other galleries only noted that the fees varied. The enclosure to this letter contains more detailed information on the use of admission fees by foreign galleries. (4) How did TicketMaster obtain the Gallerv’s ticket distribution contract? According to Gallery officials, the Gallery Iirst used a private ticket distributor during its 1986 exhibition The New Painting: Impressionism 18741886. Prior to that time, the Gallery had its own internally operated ticket distribution system. However, for the 1986 exhibition, AT&T, the exhibition sponsor, provided the services of TicketCenter for ticket distribution, at no cost to the Gallery. Prom 1986 through 1999, the Gahery used a private ticket distribution company for 11 special exhibitions. According to information provided by the GaIlery, TicketCenter later purchased Ticketron, another company used by the Gallery, and then changed its name to TicketMaster. Page 2 GAO/GGD-99-6lR Admission and Exhibition Ticket Policies B-282307 TicketMaster has held the Gallery contract since 1991. The most recent contract was awarded on December 10,1997, for a 3-year term. The Gallery official who negotiated the contracts told us that all the TicketMaster contracts have been sole source and, since July 1,1992, have been at no cost to the Gallery. The decision to sole source was based upon the effective working relationship between the Gallery and TicketMaster and the understanding of the Gallery official that TicketMaster had a virtual monopoly with regard to major ticket distribution efforts throughout the country. Between 1988 and January 1991, the Gallery paid a monthly fee of $250 for each ticket machine operated at the Gallery by Gallery personnel to distribute tickets. According to the official, the rental fees were paid from Gallery trust funds and not appropriated funds. Beginning with the contract negotiated in 1992, the rental fees were waived. In addition to the machines, TicketMaster also provides the ticket stock at no cost to the Gallery. Generally, TicketMaster receives its revenue from the fees charged to ticket purchasers who obtain their tickets from TicketMaster directly. For the recently,completed Van Gogh exhibition, the Gallery estimated that it could accommodate about 450,000 visitors. Visitors were required to obtain a ticket. Tickets could be obtained in one of three ways. About 132,000advanced tickets were available through TicketMaster. Fvhile the ticket itself was free, Ticket&laster levied a $2 service charge for each ticket obtained from a walk-up location and a service charge of $2.75, plus a $1.25 mail- handling fee, for all tickets obtained over the telephone. The Gallery did not receive any portion of these revenues. All the remainin g tickets were available, at no cost to the visitors, at the Gallery. Of these tickets, about 100,000advance admission tickets were distributed free of charge by Gallery staff using the free TicketMaster ticket machines at the Gallery. The remaining tickets, about 2,000 per day, were issued on a daily basis. These tickets were also provided by the tiee TicketMaster ticket machines at the Gallery and distributed by Gallery staff members free of charge. On March 19,1999, we obtained oral comments on a draft of this letter from the Gallery Director’s designated official, the Deputy General Counsel. She stated that the Gallery agreed with the contents of our letter and asked that some editorial clarifications be included. These clarifications have been included where appropriate. To gather the foregoing information, we interviewed Gallery officials, reviewed both the legislative background on House Joint Resolution 217 and the trust indenture agreement, and reviewed the ticket distribution contract files. We also searched the Internet and Frommers’ Europe Travel Guide for 1999 for information on admission fees charged by galleries in other countries. We did not independently verify the fee information obtained from either of these sources. We did ourwork in Washington, D.C., between November 1998 and February 1999 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. At the conclusion of our briefing on February 23,1999, your designated contact stated that the information we provided, which we have summarized above, satisfied your request and that no additional work was necessary. Page 3 GAOKGD-99-61B Admission and Exhibition Ticket Policies B-282307 We are sending copies of this letter to Senator Mitch McConnell, Jr., Chairman, and Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Ranking Minority Member, Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; Representative William M. Thomas, Chairman, and Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Ranking Minority Member, House Committee on House Adminktmtiom and the Honorable Earl A Powell, III, Director, National Gallery of Art. Copies will also be made available to others upon request If you or your staff have any questions about this letter, please contact me or Ronald Ring, the Assistant Director on this assignment, on (202) 51243387. Sincerely yours, Bernard L. Ungar Director, Government Business Operations Issues Enclosure Page 4 GAO/GGD-99-6l.E Admission and Exhibition Ticket Policies Enclosure Admission Fees Charged by Some Foreign Galleries/Museums Fee for general Fee for special admission* b exhibitsb Name of organization Location YeslNo Fee range Yes/No Fee range Art Gallery of Ontario Toronto, Canada Yes Donation Yes Varies British Museum London, England No Yes Varies Galleria Nazionale di Arte Modema Rome, . Italy _ . Yes ._ __ $4.66 _. A_ -- N/A _.~_ Israel Museum Jerusalem, Israel Yes %3.41-$6.82 N/A Nationa 1 Gallery London, IEngland” No Yes Varies National Gallery of Australia Canberra, Australia No Yes NJA National Gallery of Canada Ottawa, Canada No Yes Varies National Gallery of Ireland Dublin, Ireland No Yes N/A National Portrait Gallery London, England No - _~ Yes Vanes New National Gallery Berlin. Germany Yes Free-32.31 N/A Prado Museum Madrid, Spain YES Fl *ee-$3.39 N/A Royal Museum of Fine Art Copenhagen, Denmati Yes Free-$4.57 N/A Scottish National Gallery of Modem Art Edinburgh, Scotland Yes $4.10 N/A The Louvre Palace and Museum Paris, France Yes Free-$7.75 Yes $5.17 Vancouver Art Gallery Vancouver, Canada Yes Fret t-$5.30 N/A \Illtirsm Ml ,PPl ,mc . . . ...YU.I I..“~“.., . .Y . .“...“I ItaW Rnmm ..‘., . “” YOC l=rfsr . .a$6.74 N/A Note: N/A means the information was not available. -General admission fees may be based on the day of visitation and/or the visitor’s age. For example, visitation to The Louvre Palace and Museum is free the first Sunday of each month and every day for visitors under the age of 18. bFees are stated in US. dollars based upon the currency exchange rates on 2/2/99. “Frommers’ Euroce Travel Guide, 1999. Source: Unless other&e stated, information was obtained from Internet sources. Page 5 GAO/GGD-99-61R Admission and Exhibition Ticket Policies Page 6 GAO/GGD-99-6l.R Admission and Exhibition Ticket Policies Ordering Information The first copy of each GAO report and testimony is free. Additional copies are $2 each. Orders should be sent to the following address, accompanied by a check or money order made out to the Superintendent of Documents, when necessary. VISA and Mastercard credit cards are accepted, also. Orders for 100 or more copies to be mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. Order by mail: U.S. General Accounting Office PG. Box 37050 Washington, DC 20013 or visit= Room 1100 700 4” St. NW (corner of 4” and G Sts. NW) U.S. General Accounting Office Washington, DC Orders may also be placed by calling (202) 5126000 or by using fax number (202) 512-6061, or TDD (202) 512-2537. Each day, GAO issues a list of newly available reports and testimony. 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National Gallery of Art: Free Admission Policy and Special Exhibition Ticket Distribution Policies
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-04-01.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)