Art Market

The Smithsonian will cut pay for senior-level executives to avoid furloughs amid a projected $22 million in losses.

Justin Kamp
Apr 30, 2020 4:27PM, via The Washington Post

The Smithsonian Castle in Washington D.C. Photo by LunchboxLarry via Flickr.

The Smithsonian Institution, which is made up of 19 museums as well as the National Zoo, will cut the pay of more than 90 senior-level executives in order to avoid furloughs after it projected $22 million in losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eighty-nine nonfederal executives will receive a 10 percent pay cut for a period of 12 months starting May 24th, while Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III and Deputy Secretary Meroe Park will each take a 15 percent cut. The institution will also impose salary and hiring freezes, with the hope that these measures will allow most of its 6,300 employees to remain unaffected.

Bunch told the Washington Post:

The goal is to try to eliminate the possibility of furloughs. Our hole [if closures extend until fall] could be $20 million to $50 million. This is part of a process that will allow me to control the deficit. We don’t know how long this will go for.

Of the Smithsonian’s $1.5-billion annual budget, $1 billion is provided by the federal government, with the remaining $500 million coming from grants, contracts, memberships and associated revenue streams. The institution received $7.5 million from the federal stimulus package that passed last month, but those funds are required to be used for pandemic-related expenses including personal protective equipment (PPE) and upgraded remote working capabilities.

The Smithsonian’s dire financial situation is not unique in the art world. The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently had to lay off more than 80 employees after revealing a projected $150 million in losses, up from its initial estimate of $100 million. Madrid’s Museo Nacional del Prado projected a 70 percent loss in income due to the pandemic. In certain European countries, however, institutions are beginning to reopen. Museums in Germany have started admitting guests, albeit with rigorous new safety measures, and institutions in Italy and Belgium plan to do the same starting in mid-May.

Further Reading: How Three Very Different Museums Are Dealing with the COVID-19 Crisis

Further Reading: Ongoing Coverage of COVID-19’s Impact on the Art World

Justin Kamp
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019