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NYC’s Met Museum cuts 353 staff as it projects loss of more than $150 million amid COVID-19 pandemic

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is cutting a further 353 staff as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on museums around the world due to restrictions on movement and concerns about public gatherings.

The reduction will come through a combination of the elimination of positions, voluntary retirements and furloughs, a spokeswoman for the museum said in an emailed statement.

The museum is projecting a $150 million loss in revenue due to the pandemic, the spokeswoman said. Its annual budget is $320 million.

The Met laid off more than 80 people in April after closing in March as the pandemic spread across New York. The latest cuts will take its employee count to about 1,600, down from about 2,000 in March – a 23 percent cut in total.

The New York Times cited a memo sent to the museum’s staff on Wednesday, specifying 79 staff members had been laid off, 181 were furloughed and 93 took voluntary retirement.

‘We recognize that the Museum that we will return to – whenever that may be – will be very different from what we left behind only six months ago’, Chief Executive Dan Weiss said in a statement.

‘We have worked to ensure that these painful staff reductions are distributed across the entire Museum so that no one area or group is taking on an outsized burden’, Weiss said.

The memo noted the cuts were deeper in the visitor, security and retail departments as the museum loses out on ticket sales, plus money from events such as the annual Met Gala and the gift shops.

The New York Times reports that 43 percent of the Met’s staff are people of color. The cuts effected 48 percent of that demographic.

As part of their plan to survive the pandemic, the Met has enforced spending freezes and has raised $25 million from trustees. The Met also has an endowment of $3 billion.

A spokesperson told the New York Times that Wiess and the museum’s director Max Hollein had taken 20 percent pay cuts, and that other executives received 10 percent pay cuts. 

The Met had announced plans to reopen on August 29 but whether that will go ahead is uncertain as the local government has not yet allowed indoor museums to reopen in the city. 

Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo said about The Met’s potential to open in phase 4 which began July 20: ‘I think they can plan to reopen. And then we’ll see what the facts say.’ 

The United States has recorded about 4.8 million coronavirus cases and over 157,000 deaths as of Wednesday afternoon, according to a Reuters tally, with more than 32,000 deaths in the state of New York.

The American Alliance of Museums said last month that the US could lose a third of museums to the pandemic.

‘Museum revenue disappeared overnight when the pandemic closed all cultural institutions, and sadly, many will never recover,’ said Laura Lott, President & CEO of AAM. 

‘Even with a partial reopening in the coming months, costs will outweigh revenue and there is no financial safety net for many museums. The distress museums are facing will not happen in isolation. 

‘The permanent closure of 12,000 museums will be devastating for communities, economies, education systems, and our cultural history.’

The Philadelphia Museum of Art downsized its team by 23 percent when it laid off 85 employees on Tuesday and 42 left on voluntary agreements. 

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts cut 57 jobs on Monday and 56 took voluntary retirement.

In April, The Whitney museum in New York laid off 76 out of 420 workers. The Whitney’s ticket sales made up $13.5million of its $92million revenue last year up until June and the museum said it expected to fall short $7million due to the pandemic. 

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