Facing a $10 Million Shortfall, the Guggenheim Museum Has Furloughed Nearly 100 Staffers and Cut Salaries for Others

The museum has also implemented pay cuts for employees who make more than $80,000.

The Guggenheim Museum in New York. Photo credit: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images.
The Guggenheim Museum in New York. Photo credit: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is the latest institution to make deep cutbacks to offset losses suffered amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an email sent to staff today, the museum’s director, Richard Armstrong, said the institution would furlough 92 staff members from across the museum and implement pay cuts for employees making more than $80,000. The museum estimates that it will see a shortfall of $10 million as a result of its closure, which is likely to extend until at least the beginning of July.

Armstrong said the measures were necessary to ensure “the stability of the museum,” and described the near- and long-term impact of the pandemic as “profound.” (The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao closed in early March; the New York museum closed on March 13.)

The museum’s finances, he said, will take a serious hit from lost admission revenue, cancelled education classes, public programs, and special events, as well as a decline in the endowment as a result of the plummeting stock market. Furthermore, he noted, “we anticipate that when the museum reopens, admissions income will remain substantially lower than previously.”

The furloughed staff will be paid through April 19, and will receive benefits covered by the museum through July 31 or the date of rehire, whichever comes first. According to a Guggenheim spokesperson, the furloughs will have an impact across all departments, but the most affected are front-line roles such as front desk personnel, who are unable to work from home.

Salary cuts will be distributed on a graduated basis, from five percent to 25 percent, the spokesperson said, with larger cuts going to the top-paid employees. Around 85 employees will take pay cuts, including Armstrong.

Eleven of the furloughed workers were union members, according to Andres Puerta, the director of special projects for IUOE Local 30, which represents the museum’s unionized installers, maintenance workers, and art handlers.

“The administration has clearly chosen to make this crisis even more painful for their dedicated employees,” IUOE Local 30 said in a statement. “While the administration claims that they will receive a graduated salary cut, they are still saving themselves instead of choosing to grant security to workers.” The union noted that negotiations for a contract between the museum and its unionized workers, who voted to join Local 30 last summer, will continue.

The Guggenheim is one of many museums in New York and across the country putting staff on furlough, making layoffs, and cutting expenses as a result of losses suffered because of what many anticipate will be more than four months of closures.

The indefinite shutdown of institutions across the country has been particularly difficult for those, like the Guggenheim, that make a considerable amount of revenue from ticket sales. Last week, news broke that the New Museum furloughed 41 full- and part-time members of its staff of 150, the majority of whom are paid hourly and work part-time in front-of-house roles. They will be paid through April 15. The Whitney Museum, meanwhile, laid off 76 employees, most of whom had roles related to visitor services and therefore cannot work remotely.

The Whitney has predicted a $7 million shortfall as a result of its closure, while the Brooklyn Museum has noted it has seen a 15 percent drop in its endowment—equivalent to around $19 million—and the Metropolitan Museum of Art suspects it may lose a staggering $100 million.


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