Art Market

The Metropolitan Museum of Art expects to lose $100 million and stay closed until July.

Justin Kamp
Mar 19, 2020 3:31PM, via New York Times

Empty galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Photo by James Prescott, via Flickr.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art projected $100 million in losses resulting from the museum’s closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a letter leadership sent to department heads on Wednesday. The institution, which closed last week after two employees showed symptoms of the virus, may not reopen until July.

The letter, signed by top museum executives including president and chief executive Daniel H. Weiss and director Max Hollein, read in part:

This is an extraordinarily challenging time for us all. [...] As staff members of The Met we all have a profound responsibility to protect and preserve the treasured institution we inherited.

Responding to the upcoming financial squeeze, the institution is adopting a three-step plan that will unfold over the coming year, according to the New York Times. All museum staff will continue to be paid while working from home until April 4th. From April until July, the museum will reduce expenditures and operating costs. Finally, from July until October, the museum will reopen with reduced programming and a lower cost structure in anticipation of the lower attendance rates caused by a decline in global and domestic tourism.

The museum is also creating an emergency fund of more than $50 million by reallocating funds used for acquisition and programming, in addition to requesting support from foundations, donors, and the government.

While The Met may be able to weather such heavy losses—the museum’s operating budget is $320 million with a $3.6 billion endowment—smaller museums with more modest budgets may not be able to reopen after the pandemic is over.

Laura Lott, the president and chief executive of the American Alliance of Museums, told the Times:

Many museums are using any reserves they have to get through the next month. [...] This situation is by far more dire than anything I have experienced in my 25 years of being an arts finance professional.
Justin Kamp