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What’s going on with museum funding in the US?

13 May 2016

With major museums in the US announcing generous donations one day, then steep deficits the next, it can be difficult to keep track of the latest news about their finances. Below is a round-up of some significant announcements and reports on museum funding that have caught our eye over the last few weeks.

Metropolitan Museum

On 21 April, the Metropolitan Museum announced that it has a projected operating deficit of $9–10 million, a figure that could rise to $40 million over the next 18 months if the museum does not cut back on its spending. Daniel Weiss, the Met’s president, stated that the museum is aiming to restore a balanced budget in around 24 months, which is likely to require reduced programming and some job cuts.

This news comes after the opening of the Met Breuer in March, which will cost $17 million each year to run. Weiss has stressed, however, that ‘the driver of the deficit is not related to Breuer’. Meanwhile, the museum has temporarily suspended a planned $600 million expansion project to its main building as part of its effort to reduce its deficit.

Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. © Jean-Christophe Benoist

MoMA

MoMA’s financial situation appears stronger. On the same day the Met revealed its deficit, the modern art museum announced it had received a gift of $100 million from the entertainment mogul David Geffen to support its $440 million expansion project.

Yet MoMA has admitted that the expansion will also temporarily restrict its activities and income. To make ends meet, the museum is reducing its staff by offering voluntary buyouts to employees aged 55 or older with at least nine years of service.

The Museum of Modern Art, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi. Entrance at 53rd Street.

The Museum of Modern Art, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi. Entrance at 53rd Street. Photo © 2011 Timothy Hursley

New Museum

In preparation for its 40th birthday next year, the New Museum in Brooklyn has embarked on an $80 million capital campaign to pay for an expansion that will double its space and triple the size of its endowment. Although the amount may seem small in comparison to the $100 million gift to MoMA, it is the largest fund-raising effort made by the museum in its history. On 10 May, the institution announced that it has raised $43 million towards its goal.

The New Museum, SANAA, New York

The New Museum, SANAA, New York. © Marc Teer

SFMOMA

The re-opening of SFMOMA on 14 May is symbolic of the museum’s fundraising success over the last few years. Designed by the Swedish architecture firm Snøhetta, the museum’s new extension provides nearly three times the exhibition space than was previously available. In total, the institution has raised $610 million to pay for the construction, including $245 million to bolster its endowment ­– more than tripling the previous amount.

Meanwhile, SFMOMA’s ‘Campaign for Art’ has resulted in the acquisition of 3,000 new works from more than 200 donors since 2009. These will augment SFMOMA’s partnership with the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection, which will present a selection of the collectors’ 1,100 artworks over the next 100 years.

The new SFMOMA, view from Yerba Buena Gardens.

The new SFMOMA, view from Yerba Buena Gardens. © Henrik Kam, courtesy SFMOMA

LACMA

Not to be overshadowed by its West Coast rival, on 28 April LACMA announced a combined gift of $75 million. Elaine Wynn, an art collector and the museum’s co-chair, pledged $50 million to spur on the next phase of fundraising efforts towards its proposed $600 million expansion project. The Los Angeles collector A. Jerrold Perenchio added a further $25 million to his original pledge of 47 artworks worth over $500 million.

One of the original 1965 buildings of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

One of the original 1965 buildings of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. © sailko

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