Another round of coronavirus downsizing was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art when 15 employees across 11 departments were told they would be laid off, the museum’s director Adam Weinberg said in an email to staff last week .
The move was taken as part of an ongoing effort to address the severe financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The layoffs were first reported by Artnet News.
The Whitney closed last March, as did other museums and cultural institutions in New York City because of the pandemic.
Since the reopening in August, ticket sales have declined by 80 percent compared to the same period last year, Weinberg wrote.
“As many of you have seen firsthand, our visit remains extremely low,” wrote Weinberg, adding, “Cuts to our on-site events and programs have significantly reduced sales.”
The email message was shared by Whitney with the New York Times.
The audited annual financial statements of the museum for the fiscal year ending June 2020 seem to show the beginning of the effect described by Weinberg. Total approval revenue for that year was reported as $ 5.8 million compared to $ 13.5 million a year ago.
The museum’s website lists three current exhibitions that have opened since August. These include “Nothing is so humble: prints of everyday objects”; “Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop”, a chronicle of a collective of black photographers founded in New York City in 1963; and oil paintings by Salman Toor.
In the past year, several other large museums were also affected by the pandemic. The Neues Museum has put some employees on leave and laid off others, union members said. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation turned to vacation and wage cuts. And the Metropolitan Museum of Art has downsized its ranks through layoffs, vacations, and voluntary retirements.
Last year, the Whitney reportedly laid off 76 employees while preparing to lose at least $ 7 million due to the shutdown.
In his email message last week, Weinberg said the toll was much higher and wrote, “Unfortunately, the pandemic prolongs Whitney’s financial losses, which to date total $ 23 million.”
Weinberg acknowledged the recent positive news regarding vaccines and was cautious. He said the economic recovery in the cultural sector and other sectors would be gradual and potentially erratic, noting that the New York tourism agency had forecast that it could be until 2025 for visitors to come in the same numbers as before to return to New York after the pandemic.
“We don’t know how long this period of extreme trouble will last,” he added. “And we anticipate further significant sales losses.”