Guggenheim furloughs 92 employees in New York

Museum will also reduce salaries for those making over $80,000

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum during a bustling period Jean-Christophe Benoist/Wikipedia

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum during a bustling period Jean-Christophe Benoist/Wikipedia

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York is furloughing 92 of its 315 employees and reducing salaries for staff members making over $80,000 in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, its director, Richard Armstrong, announced today.

In a statement, Armstrong said the museum, which shut its doors a month ago like dozens of art institutions across the country, expects a revenue shortfall of $10m during the closing period. The Guggenheim hopes to reopen in July, he added, but “it is hard to say at this moment whether that will be advisable” given the uncertainty about how the coronavirus outbreak will unfold.

“The near- and long-term impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the museum is profound due to loss of all admission revenue, cancelled education classes, public programs and special events,” his statement said. “Further, we have witnessed a decline in our endowment" amid stock market turmoil.  

The Whitney Museum of American Art and the New Museum are among the other New York institutions that have idled employees in response to the crisis and the attendant loss of income, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art has signaled that it plans layoffs as well. Layoffs and furloughs have also unfolded at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh.

Regular salaried and hourly employees at the Guggenheim will be paid until 19 April, Armstrong says. The 92 furloughed staff members will receive health benefits through 31 July or the date of rehire, whichever comes first.

A museum spokeswoman said that many of those furloughed worked in front-line positions serving visitors and therefore are now unable to perform their duties, but that every department in the museum had been affected.

Staff members earning more than $80,000 will see their salaries reduced on a graduated basis, with the percentage of the cut rising at higher wage levels, the statement says. Armstrong added that he would also take a pay cut but did not provide a figure; according to the museum's 2018 tax filing, he received around $828,000 in salary and over $600,000 in other compensation that year.

“The Guggenheim would like to be able to recall as many of the furloughed staff as may be possible when the museum reopens,” the Guggenheim spokeswoman said. “But because of the ever-changing landscape, we cannot outline our plans with certainty at this time.”

“We will continue to seek guidance from state and local officials as we look forward to the day when we can again open our doors,” said Armstrong.