Hamburger Kunsthalle neu ab 2016 © Moka-studio

Pay what you want: What is the price of art

Hamburg's civic art gallery tests new entry fees at part of an extensive renovation scheme that covers all aspects from construction works to marketing and visitor schemes.

No fixed admission fee: In July, Hamburg’s civic gallery “Hamburger Kunsthalle” runs an experiment. At the ticket desk, visitors are asked how much they want to spend on their visit to the collection and exhibitions. “Pay What You Want” (PWYW) is on test all month. “We are surprised at the positive outcome,” a spokeswoman of the art gallery told the local broadcaster NDR Kultur. “Most of the visitor are being more generous than expected.” A second result: PWYW works especially wll in a personal contact between buyer and seller.

Studies confirm the success of PWYW

The results of a scientific study conducted by the University of Frankfurt confirm the positive results of PWYW (pay what you want): In all three examined field studies – restaurant, movie theater, retail – consumers did neither abuse price mechanism nor behaved opportunistically. On the contrary: PWYW led to increased sales and new clients. And that’s exactly what Hamburg’s civic galley is hoping for.

Custom-tailored to visitors’ needs

Also the visitors welcome the experiment. Those with limited fund are now able to explore the gallery’s rich collection for free, and perhaps establish the very first contact with art. And those with a limited amount of time won’t feel ripped off by the full entry, but only pay a portion of the fee to explore one highlight of the museum.

Testing new approaches

The new payment scheme is part of the gallery’s comprehensive repositioning and modernisation under full operation. The period of construction works – including the relocation of the entrance to the historic grand entry and a remodeled foyer – is also seen as experiment time for new visitor services and approaches.The facelift was made possible by a 15 million euro donation of the local Hamburg entrepreneur Alexander Otto, and the Dorit und Alexander Otto Foundation founded together with his wife. In addition, Hamburg will provide seven million euro for the restoration of the Kunsthalle depot and the redesign of the grounds at Deichtorplatz/Ferdinandstor.

Merging three units into one complex

The modernisation will integrated all units of Hamburger Kunsthalle into a single museum complex. To achieve this, the historic main entry will be re-opened and the central staircase, out of use since 1919, reshaped to lead the way into an open arcade room. Flooded by natural light, the spacious new entrance hall will offer amazing views of the Alster lake through its large glass windows. From the barrier-free new lobby with ticket sale, museum shop and visitor info, two new walks will guide through the collections of contemporary works or arts before 1950. Modern LED lighting, new flooring and new wall surfaces will improve the presentation of paintings and other art objects.

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