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SFMoMA as seen from the Yerba Buena Gardens.

SFMoMA Furloughs Majority of Staff

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is furloughing all full-time and many part-time employees on a limited basis, effective at the end of September, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The furloughs, announced during an online meeting last week, will take place on Fridays, and will continue until the museum reopens, though the institution has not yet said when this will take place. The move means affected employees will lose one workday a week, or about 20 percent of their earnings.

SFMoMA closed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic in March. Following the announcement of a $7 million deficit for the fiscal year 2020, the institution laid off 131 on-call staff. Of the 343 employees remaining, the highest paid took a 10 percent salary cut through June 30; director Neal Benezra took a 50 percent salary reduction through year-end.

A $6 million loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program that arrived in April allowed the institution to immediately avoid further furloughs. On the news that an $18 million deficit was predicted for the fiscal year 2021, however, the museum laid off or reduced the hours of a further 55 employees. Apart from these cuts, the museum has until now been paying staff full salary and benefits.

According to a statement released by SFMoMA, the museum has over the past six months seen a 90 percent reduction in earned revenue, which would typically come via such avenues as ticket sales, gift shop sales, food service, and event space rental. The decision to furlough most employees for one day a week is intended to “share the financial burden across the museum and not penalize one department or staff level,” the museum said.

SFMoMA has had a troubled summer. In June, the museum drew ire for posting an artwork by Glenn Ligon on its Instagram account in response to the death of George Floyd, rather than crafting its own remarks on the topic. Benezra apologized for the incident; he issued a second apology to former employee Taylor Brandon, whose comment criticizing the museum’s handling of the subject was removed from the post. In July, longtime curator Gary Garrels resigned in July after staff demanded his removal in the wake of Garrels’s comment that the institution would continue to collect work by white male artists in an attempt to avoid what he characterized as “reverse discrimination.”

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