Whitney lays off 15 workers amid mounting financial losses

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Another round of staff cuts for coronaviruses has arrived at the Whitney Museum of American Art, as 15 workers from 11 departments were told they were being made redundant, museum director Adam Weinberg said in an email to to employees last week.

The move is part of an ongoing attempt to tackle the dire financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The layoffs were first reported by Artnet News.

The Whitney closed its doors last March, along with other New York City museums and cultural institutions, due to the pandemic.

Since reopening in August, Weinberg wrote, ticket sales had declined 80% from the same period the year before.

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“As many of you have seen firsthand, our attendance remains extremely low,” Weinberg wrote, adding, “The cuts to our events and on-site programming have dramatically reduced our revenue.”

The email was shared by the Whitney with the New York Times.

The museum’s audited financial statements for the fiscal year ending June 2020 appear to show the start of the effect Weinberg described. Total admissions revenue for this year was $ 5.8 million, up from $ 13.5 million the year before.

The museum’s website lists three current exhibitions that have opened since August. They include “Nothing is so humble: impressions of everyday objects”; “Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop”, chronicling a collective of black photographers established in New York in 1963; and oil paintings by Salman Toor.

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Several other major museums were also reeling from the pandemic last year. The new museum has laid off some staff and sacked others, union members said. The museum and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation have turned to time off and pay cuts. And the Metropolitan Museum of Art has thinned its ranks with voluntary layoffs, leaves and retirements.

Last year, the Whitney reportedly laid off 76 employees while preparing to lose at least $ 7 million from the shutdown.

In his email message last week, Weinberg said the toll had been much heavier, writing: “Unfortunately, the pandemic extends Whitney’s financial losses, which so far stand at $ 23 million.”

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While acknowledging the recent positive vaccine-related news, Weinberg issued several cautionary notes, saying the economic recovery in the culture sector and other areas would be gradual and possibly erratic and noting that the tourism agency in New York had forecast that it could take until 2025 for visitors. to return to New York in the same numbers as before the pandemic.

“We do not know how long this period of extreme difficulty will last,” he added. “And we anticipate further significant revenue losses.”

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