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London’s Tate Modern.
London’s Tate Modern.

Tate to Cut 120 Gallery Jobs in Attempt to “Survive” Pandemic

London’s Tate Gallery has announced that it will shed 120 gallery jobs, or 12 percent of staff, as it moves to trim £4.8 million ($6.5 million) from its budget in an effort to stay afloat amid the continuing Covid-19 crisis. The institution, which in September cut half the workforce at its commercial arm, Tate Ltd., has launched a voluntary-redundancy program. Workers considering early retirement or looking to take a break are encouraged to accept the offer. If the program doesn’t receive enough volunteers, however, compulsory cuts will likely follow.

“We now need to do what so many others in our sector are doing, which is to reduce the overall size of Tate Gallery’s workforce,” said Tate director Maria Balshaw and COO Vicky Cheetham in a statement. “We hope that this voluntary process will help us make these significant savings, but we cannot rule out having to move to compulsory redundancy in 2021 to meet the necessary level of reductions.”

Tate, which supplies 70 percent of its funding through its own efforts, closed in March as the novel coronavirus spread in Britain, reopening in July in limited capacity. Shortly thereafter, it announced the possibility of the commercial cuts, spawning protests and ultimately a strike, with hundreds of artists signing an open letter in support of striking staff, who voiced concern over the disproportionate number of Black and minority workers affected by the cuts—although this turned out not to be the case—and demanded the institution put 10 percent of the $9.4 million support it had received toward protecting the jobs.

The institution, which has been closed a total of six months this year, said it expects to host a million visitors in 2020, roughly one-eighth the number it had expected, and to lose $75 million in self-generated income. In addition to the gallery staff cuts, Tate has halved its operating budget and slashed executive-level staff salaries.

Speaking about the cuts with the Daily Telegraph, Tate Liverpool director Helen Legg was blunt. “We won’t see a bounceback in our figures in the next 12 months, maybe even the next two years,” she said. “This is about survival.”

Update, December 7: This article has been updated to reflect that the cuts did not end up disproportionately impacting Black and minority workers, according to a Tate spokesperson.