The Whitney Museum in New York Has Axed 15 More Staffers as Museum Layoffs Continue Unabated in the US

The Whitney has suffered a budget shortfall of $23 million and projects “significant” future losses.

View of the Whitney Museum from the Hudson River. Photograph by Karin Jobst, courtesy of the museum.

The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York has instituted another round of layoffs following the financial crunch due to plummeting visitorship.

Director Adam Weinberg informed staff in an email last week, which the museum shared with Artnet News.

In all, 15 staffers across 11 departments were cut. They received four to six months severance.

“Visitation remains extremely low,” Weinberg said in the email, explaining that revenue from ticket sales had plunged 80 percent. To date, he says, the museum has racked up losses of $23 million, and is projecting “significant” further revenue losses.

“New York City’s tourism agency recently projected that it may take until 2025 for travelers to return to New York in the same numbers as before the pandemic,” Weinberg wrote.

Besides ticket sales plummeting, the elimination of onsite events and programming has cut into the museum’s usual income, Weinberg explained.

The news follows a round of layoffs in April 2020 that came just weeks after lockdown was instituted. At that time, 76 employees were cut, most of whom worked in visitors’ services-related roles. At the time, the museum was predicting a budget shortfall of just $7 million. Weinberg and other senior staff took pay cuts.

The museum closed in March but reopened in August with social-distancing measures and other precautions in place, in accordance with state guidelines.

The pandemic presents an existential threat to many American institutions, and many New York museums, large and small, have cut staff through layoffs, furloughs, and voluntary retirements.

The American Association of Museums released a study in November indicating that US museums may have lost nearly $30 billion, and just over half of American museums had made layoffs or furloughs.

Nearly 30 percent of those surveyed reported a significant chance they would close within a year, or that they weren’t sure they would ever be able to reopen.

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