May 7, 2020; Artforum
It was only last year when New York City’s famed Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) finished a major expansion that cost it a cool $450 million—but then came COVID.
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The museum, planning on reopening between June and September, has now unveiled its subsequent plan to reduce its 2021 $180 million budget by $45 million. Some of the savings will come from a 17 percent decrease in staff. When it reopens, it may also look very different, in that the museum is considering how close is too close when it comes to the individual pieces that make up the collection and the capacity of the galleries. The expansion was to have, ironically, allowed the museum to exhibit more of its collection on a rotating basis, but you know what they say about “the best laid plans.”
Still, don’t weep for MoMA, with its rarified $1.2 billion endowment. Large arts institutions run this risk of ending up short of cash in a downturn every time they build out and improve their physical space. It is a calculated risk, taken in part to attract donors to the beautiful bricks and mortar of it all. We do, however, weep for those cut from their employment because of the choices made by the institution.—Ruth McCambridge