Metropolitan Museum of Art Lays Off Dozens in Face of Possible $40 Million Deficit

A fresh round of layoffs has affected both high-ranking and low-level employees.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Courtesy of Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Courtesy of Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images.

In its struggle to contain an estimated $10 million deficit, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art reportedly laid off 34 employees yesterday.

Citing an unnamed insider source, the Arts Journal blog reported that the venerable museum’s deficit may even be around the $40 million mark, or larger. Faced with mounting debt, the institution resorted to reducing its wage bill by terminating the employment of a number of low-level staffers from the development, education, and construction departments.

The involuntary layoffs were reportedly completed by Tuesday evening, with the majority of those let go coming from the digital media department. Among those reportedly let go was Teresa Lai, manager of online publications, who was the driving force behind the highly praised Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

The Met first announced cutbacks in April, offering voluntary buyouts to employees over the age of 55 who had spent at least 15 years at the museum—an offer that just under 60 longtime employees accepted.

Other high profile departures in June included Sree Sreenivasan, the museum’s chief digital officer; Cynthia Round, vice president of marketing and external relations; and Susan Sellers, head of design.

Other austerity measures included reducing the number of exhibitions, and, in some cases, reducing the scale and scope of planned upcoming shows. For example, Arts Journal reported that a number of loans for “Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven” were scrapped.

A recent series of ambitious and expensive expansions and renovations has depleted the Met’s coffers. The renovation of its modern and contemporary art wing will cost $600 million (now on hold), and its expansion into the Met Breuer will cost $15 million in renovations, and will require a further $17 million in annual operating costs. The museum also spent $3 million on a lackluster new graphic identity.

“These are difficult decisions, we’re disappointed to be losing good colleagues. But we’re making very good progress on the process we put in motion,” Daniel H. Weiss, the Met’s president and chief operating officer, told the New York Times. “Our goal was to meet the budget objectives that we have without in any way diminishing the core mission of the museum.”

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