The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the first major New York institution to temporarily shut its doors in response to the coronavirus, is expecting the closure to last through July and is predicting that it will result in a $100 million shortfall, the New York Times reports. The forecast follows the United States’ Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation on Monday that gatherings of more than fifty people should be suspended for at least eight weeks. To make up for the loss, the museum is setting up an emergency fund of more than $50 million with monies that are usually allocated for acquisitions and programming.
The projection is a sign of the financial impact the coronavirus over the next few weeks or months will have on cultural institutions in New York and beyond. Venues closed to support the effort of trying to contain COVID-19, which has been contracted by more than 7,760 people in the US, are now crunching numbers and questioning how long they can remain shut down. In order to outlast the coronavirus, museums such as the Tenement Museum in Manhattan, which has an endowment of $2.7 million, have already begun laying off employees. While the Met’s endowment may be much bigger at $3.6 billion, the institution only recently rebounded from a deficit of nearly $40 million. Its top executives said the museum is also preparing for the future by strategizing on how to reduce spending and operating costs and evaluating the need for furloughs, layoffs, and voluntary retirements.
In a letter issued to the public earlier today, Daniel H. Weiss, the Met’s president and CEO, and director Max Hollein, said that the museum will be at least closed until April 4—all events and programs have been canceled through May 15—and are urging the public to continue to engage with the museum via its website. They wrote: “We have remained closely aligned with public health and local officials to make decisions about the museum’s operations, and we did not hesitate to close our buildings as soon as it became clear that it was the right thing to do. The Met, indeed all institutions, will surely face difficult decisions as this situation unfolds, but we are steadfast in our mission to protect and preserve this great institution and its magnificent collection in perpetuity, and to be good citizens and leaders in our current times.”
Laura Lott, the president and chief executive of the American Alliance of Museums told the Times that museums are already using their reserves just to survive the month. She claims that about a third of the US museums surveyed by the organization were already experiencing pressure financial before the arrival of the coronavirus. She said, “This situation is by far more dire than anything I have experienced in my twenty-five years of being an arts finance professional.”