Revising Previous Estimates, the Metropolitan Museum of Art Now Says It May Lose Up to $150 Million as It Lays Off More Than 80 Employees

The museum made cuts in its visitors' services and retail departments, and will begin offering voluntary retirements.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art  laid of 81 employees today as museum leadership announced to staff that the institution may face a staggering $150 million shortfall.

The Met, which will likely remain closed until at least July, is also instituting pay cuts to executive-level employees, including 20 percent salary reductions for director Max Hollein and president and CEO Daniel H. Weiss. Eleven other museum officers will take 10 percent salary cuts.

Days after the museum closed in response to the coronavirus crisis on March 13, it said it was bracing for a $100 million deficit based on projected lost revenue, reduced fundraising, and a hit to the museum’s endowment. But as big as that number is, Weiss now believes it underestimated the financial impact of an extended closure.

“As we learn more about the global impact of this crisis, and as we develop plans for reopening in light of this new information, our estimates of the budget shortfall are now between $100 and $150 million through the fiscal year 2021,” Weiss and Hollein wrote in an email to museum staff obtained by Artnet News.

Salary and benefits eat up more than 65 percent of the museum’s annual budget, according to the email. The Met had previously announced plans to work within the constraints of its $3.6 billion endowment to help cover costs.

A sign outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on March 13, 2020. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images.

A sign outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on March 13, 2020. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images.

The eliminated positions come from the museum’s visitors’ services and retail departments. The staff will remain on payroll through June 6, and receive health benefits through June 30. The museum is also introducing a voluntary retirement program for employees aged 60 or older with at least 15 years of service. Salaries for all other non-union staff are guaranteed through July 4.

But Weiss and Hollein said even those measures may not be enough to stave off future downsizing. “Unfortunately, at this point we anticipate that additional reductions in staffing costs will be considered,” they wrote in the email.

Until this point, the museum had avoided the furloughs and layoffs that other museums—such as SFMOMA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, among others—have instituted. In New York, the Met now joins MoMA PS1, the New Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Queens Museum in making staff cuts.

“Our two primary objectives continue to be doing all that we can to support the health and safety of our community and to protect the long-term financial health of the museum,” Weiss said in a statement issued to ARTnews. “The arts and culture community is facing a crisis of unprecedented magnitude in our lifetimes.


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