Metropolitan Museum of Art Announces Cutbacks to Curb $10 Million Deficit

The museum is admitting it had overreached.

The front steps and entrance to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Courtesy Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is scaling back on all fronts after revealing its considerable $10 million deficit, museum director and chief executive Thomas P. Campbell, and president Daniel H. Weiss announced April 21, as reported by the New York Times.

Campbell and Weiss stated that they are planning a financial restructuring that will take place over the next 24 months. They added that if these changes were not implemented, the deficit could inflate to up to $40 million after a year of large-scale expansion.

“If we do nothing—if we just carry on—18 months from now, at the beginning of fiscal year 2018, the deficit would be four times bigger,” said Weiss. “That’s not OK, so we’re going to take action to control that.”

Over the next two years, the Met will shed staff—dozens, rather than hundreds, according to Campbell—reduce their exhibition program, halt projects, and look at maximizing all the revenue streams available to them within the museum’s current structure.

The plan will include a hiring freeze (70 percent of the museum’s expenses are salaries), voluntary buyouts or redundancies, and, potentially, layoffs. The museum will also effectively pause construction of their addition to the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing ahead of the architectural phase of the project while they look at raising the funds to complete it.

Thomas P. Campbell attends the Anna Wintour Costume Center Grand Opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 5, 2014 in New York City. <br> Photo: Michael Loccisano / Staff/Getty

Thomas P. Campbell attends the Anna Wintour Costume Center Grand Opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art 2014. 
Photo: Michael Loccisano/Staff/Getty.

“We’ve had increasing pressure on the budget and knew that we were going to have to take actions to get it back in balance,” explained Campbell.

This is the second round of layoffs in six years, as the Met, as well as other institutions, were forced to make budget cuts in 2009.

The Met Breuer.Photo: Courtesy of the Met.

The Met Breuer.
Photo: Courtesy of the Met.

The announcement comes in a year when the Met launched a new site in the old Whitney Building on Madison Avenue in the shape of the warmly received Met Breuer. Although Met Breuer—which costs $17 million a year to run and is in line for a $600 million Met commissioned new wing by David Chipperfield—is funded through philanthropy, many indirect costs such as staff training, perhaps predictably, fell to the Met itself. The Met also spent $3 million on rebranding efforts encompassing all three of its sites.

In addition, this year the museum also had to change the wording regarding its optional $25 entrance fee from “recommended” to “suggested.” Since then, the Met is apparently receiving less revenue via its admissions.

With an annual operating budget of $300 million, the decline, despite the 6.3 million annual visitors, expected to work out to 30-40 cents per person according to Weiss, will take a toll.

Retail revenue also fell last year, despite the number of blockbuster shows that have been on view, and the museum’s considerable draw as a tourist attraction, reportedly bringing the city $946 in tourist spending.

“What we’re seeking here is ensuring financial stability for core programs and investing in the future,” Weiss is quoted in the NYT. “That’s the whole point of this plan, to make sure we can do both,” he added.

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