Art Market

Museums across the U.S., facing the effects of COVID-19, laid off staff or closed permanently.

Justin Kamp
Apr 6, 2020 4:55PM, via Hyperallergic

Installation view of Daylit gallery 212 overlooking Projects Gallery at the Museum of Modern Art. Photography by Iwan Baan, Courtesy of MoMA.

The Museum of Modern Art ended all contracts with its freelance educators due to the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an email from department heads obtained by Hyperallergic. Educators, who were typically paid $115 per 60 to 75 minute class, will be compensated for classes planned through the end of March, but not for any work they may have begun in preparation for planned April classes. The email notes that “it will be months, if not years, before we anticipate returning to budget and operations levels to require educator services.”

The New Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Guggenheim Museum have also furloughed staff. The New Museum laid off 41 employees— nearly a third of its workforce— the majority of which worked part-time. They will be paid through April 15th. Senior staff will take a pay cut of between 10 and 20 percent, while the museum’s director, Lisa Phillips, will take a voluntary 30 percent cut. The Whitney laid off 76 staff members after projecting a $7 million budget deficit, with museum director Adam Weinberg and other senior staff members taking salary reductions similar to the New Museum. The Guggenheim, which is expecting a revenue shortfall of $10 million while it is closed, furloughed 92 staff in New York and is reducing the salaries of employees who make more than $80,000.The Indianapolis Contemporary (I/C), meanwhile, announced on Friday that it will permanently close due to the financial strain imposed by the ongoing pandemic and other organizational challenges.

The museum’s board president Casey Cronin told Artforum:

The challenges of operating a contemporary art nonprofit organization in Indianapolis have been considerable since our founding in 2001. The impact of the coronavirus is certain to exacerbate economic hardships and reduce exhibition opportunities. We have concluded our operations are not sustainable. We are not alone as other arts institutions struggle in this crisis.

These furloughs are the latest in the string of layoffs affecting art world institutions. Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art and UCLA’s Hammer Museum both laid off part-time staff two weeks ago, as did the Cleveland Museum of Art. Last week, Sotheby’s furloughed 200 employees after closing its offices and salerooms worldwide. In more promising news, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced it will extend payments for its 2,200 staff members until May 2nd after originally guaranteeing payment only until April 4th.

Update: April 10th, 2020

This article has been updated to include measures taken by the Guggenheim Museum.

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Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of New Museum employees furloughed and laid off. The article has been revised to include the correct figures.

Justin Kamp