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Met Layoffs Today: About Three Dozen People Were Let Go

Today, the Metropolitan Museum of Art* shed more staff–in the form of involuntary layoffs. As we’ve known for a while, the Met’s financial position has deteriorated: its operating deficit has been placed at anywhere from $10 million to $40 million, depending on various scenarios. I’ve even heard, from informed sources, that it could be larger.

MetGreatHallBy the end of the day, some 34 people had been notified that their employment at the Met was coming to an end.

Supposedly, as this was all happening today–it will not be a drawn-out process, which is a good thing–but it is not yet clear if the dismissals were completed today.

Most of those leaving, I’m told, are not high-level. They worked in development, education. construction and the bulk of the cuts–if there is a “bulk”–were in the digital media department, which in June had 68 people. I’m told that Teresa Lai, the manager of online publications, who was project manager for the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, is among those leaving. She deserves credit for that–it’s an amazing resource.

The Met’s earlier attempt to get employees to take buyouts, which in April were offered to those over 55 who had spent at least 15 years at the museum, resulted in just fewer than 60 (I think it’s either 57 or 59, I’ve forgotten) taking the offer. In addition to the other names I’ve listed here, here, here and here, they include Joan Aruz, chair of the department of Ancient Near East art, and conservator George Bisacca, an expert on panel paintings.

So, to reduce the payroll as “needed,” the Met thought it had to lay off about 40 people, according to my sources.

In other, previously announced cost-cutting measures, the Met has trimmed the number of exhibitions it will present and it has trimmed the size/content of some. I understand that some loans to Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven were cancelled, though it nevertheless is an excellent exhibition deserving of the praise it has received so far.

*I consult to a foundation that supports the Met.



  1. the fact is many visitors pay one or two dollars or a little more.. it is clear you pay what you want,and many people donate a small amount. very few pay the suggested admission price.

    • Patricia Matchette says

      This is very true. We all must take responsibility and pay or fair share for public institutions that offer us as much as the Met.

  2. GEORGE BISACCA IS AN INVALUABLE CONSERVATOR AND THIS BREAKS MY HEART!! What is going on? I only hope that he got a HUGE buy-out.

    • David Nisinson says

      Crazy decision by the Met! This indicates either complete desperation or
      a lamentable deterioration of the fundamental value system of the Metropolitan.
      George Bisacca will survive this and probably prosper. In many ways he might be personally better off in private practice. The Met, however, is somewhat diminished both by his absence and
      by being controlled by people who don’t understand that.

    • George Bisacca says

      There seems to be some confusion as to my situation. I appreciate very much your concern, but the fact is that I was in no way pushed out of the Museum. I elected to take the Voluntary Retirement Package because it presented an opportunity for me to move my primary residence to Florence where I have a beautiful apartment. I will split my time between there and New York and will continue to be involved at the Met as a consultant for a number of months per year.
      This wonderful outcome for me happened to coincide with the unfortunate economic downturn for the Met. The Museum will certainly rebound and remains a truly great institution.

  3. Obviously the endowment is doing poorly — probably had too much Exxon and not enough Google! Hope the museum has done some chopping in the money dept.

  4. David Mendez says

    The reason why staff are being laid off is because the administration in charge has been ruthlessly trying to make money for themselves without truly understanding, knowing, or caring about what a museum does for a culture. Administrations in every large museum across the globe are fleecing culture to line their own pockets exactly the same way that heads of business have been doing for the past 30 years. If museums aren’t profitable for them, then they have to get rid of it.

    They raise the price of admission, they raise the price of memberships, they get members of iconic businesses to join the board because these people have connections to the wealthy who are willing to give millions of their own dollars for what they think is a good cause, except the administrators give them selves higher and higher paychecks, they create other highly-paid positions that they hire their friends for and surround themselves in these false senses of philanthropy to justify their greed and to convince the public of their necessity, and in the process create A FALSE SENSE OF CHARITY.

    The entire machine of today’s museums are designed like a crappy 503c organization whose purpose is to get more and more people to donate money so that the administration can survive, not the organization. And then the effers pull stunts like this where they lay off critical staff to send the message out there THAT THEY NEED MORE MONEY.

    People from across the nation will respond by writing checks and businesses who haven’t given before will reach out to, in the museum’s own words, “form new partnerships”, and the museum will win twice because not only has it now gotten rid of staff, but it also justified raising it’s fees again, and it now has new cash flow from outside sources that it would never had had before because of it’s news story/free advertising campaign. Mark my words and check the museum’s 1099 forms, The administration will be giving themselves $100,000 raises in the next several months. Greed and power is a sickness in the United States.

  5. This is appalling! Our government spends an obscene amount of money to “protect” us, but our largest arts institutions are suffering!

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