Despite all the financial woes in the art world — museums stripping back programing, galleries closing, starving artists starving a little extra — the upper echelons of the art industry resemble those of the financial world in at least one respect: the people at the top make astronomical amounts of money. In a Bloomberg survey of the top earners at major American museums, MoMA president Glenn D. Lowry (pictured) came out on top, with a 2008 salary of $1.32 million, which, if you add all kinds of compensations like his free Midtown condo in the adjacent Museum Tower, is more like $2.7 million.
Lowry took a pay cut from the preceding year, when he earned $1.95 million. Meanwhile, MoMA has stopped hiring new employees, froze salaries for those earning less than $150,000 per year, and imposed 2-10% reductions on those earning more. Other art institution earners in 2008 included James Wood ($1.1 million) president and CEO of Los Angeles’s Getty Center and the Met’s outgoing director Philippe de Montebello ($818,935). Sounds like it’s time for some radical wealth redistribution in the art world.
(via Culture Monster)
They can keep their money.
It’s easy and all too tempting to wave the sensationalist banner but this is pretty shallow stuff. If you compare these salaries with those of the academy, one concludes instead that the essential public service provided by museum employees of all stripes is woefully undervalued and directors are some of the few getting paid near what they could hope to make in the other non-profit and for-profit lines of work available to them. Of course it is a shame that lower-level museum employees are being treated so shabbily, but the solution is not to incapacitate these institutions by making them incapable of attracting and holding talented arts leaders. Rather, a fundamental change in the nature of public support for art museums is needed to bring museums salaries across the board better in line with those of the academy, foundations, and, God forbid, for-profit art world.
I agree wholeheartedly about the need for more public support for the nation’s art institutions, but I’m still dubious about the 1.3 to 2.7 million in remuneration for talented “arts leaders.”
Though it might be fair in the context of executive pay as it stands, do talented “arts leaders” really have greater opportunities outside of the arts? Is it crazy to ask one of these talented executives to make a paltry 600K working in a field that they putatively love?
This obviously leads into a broader discussion/rant about the fairness of executive remuneration in general, and what exactly it is these guys are doing that warrants salaries in excess of 200 times that of the lowest cog in the company.
(I confess, I’m a pinko Canadian.)
I have a sensationalist banner for you – MoMA supports animal torture. Foie gras in their fancy restaurant at $30 a plate. Old issue I know but still worth remembering. Surprised no one(to my knowledge) has called Mr. Lowry on this issue, yet…