NEAL BENEZRA is not a showman. But as museum directors nationwide face plummeting endowments and potentially crippling budget cuts, Mr. Benezra’s even-keeled approach and penchant for collaboration in his stewardship of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art may be a blueprint for how to endure the financial uncertainty.
Arts, Culture & Humanities
“That was then; this is now.” A blunt expression often used in negotiations when one party wants to make clear to the other that previously reasonable expectations are unlikely to be met because of some adverse and unalterable change in circumstances. It is an expression that the cultural sector’s leadership is likely to hear frequently over the next few years as it seeks to navigate a radically changed economic and political map. The global recession that we have entered will not just knock the froth off things; it will permanently reconfigure the cultural landscape. This may happen more slowly and the events may be less flamboyantly newsworthy than the bankruptcy of Iceland, the collapse of the international banking system or the failure of the American mortgage industry, but the underlying forces at work are just as strong—indeed, they are the same forces.
When even the Metropolitan Museum of Art is laying off staff members, what do you do if your financial base is less Fifth Avenue and more Queens Boulevard?
The J. Paul Getty Trust, envied as the economic Goliath of the museum world, is slashing its operating budget nearly 25% for the coming fiscal year, an emergency response to investment losses that have totaled $1.5 billion since July and nearly $2 billion since mid-2007.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has announced that it will lay off more than a quarter of its merchandising staff, eliminating 74 jobs in addition to the 53 it cut last year, the New York Times reports.