The Guggenheim’s Director Got a Big Raise While Staff Were Laid Off

"Management repeatedly stated that the museum was in a perpetual fiscal crisis," a representative for the Guggenheim union said.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on May 2, 2020 in New York City. Noam Galai/Getty Images

On Monday, Hyperallergic broke the news that Richard Armstrong, the director of New York’s Guggenheim museum, was the recipient of a significant pay hike last year in the midst of pandemic-related staffer turmoil at the museum.. In 2020, the Guggenheim laid off several staffers, citing dwindling income and drastically reduced admission levels. “We have leaned into all the options we have available to us, including decreasing operating expenses, hiring freezes, analyzing business needs and departmental priorities, and reducing leadership salaries,” Armstrong wrote in a letter to staff in September 2020. According to the new reports, between 2019 and 2020, Armstrong’s salary was bumped up by $400,000.

According to reports, in April 2020, executives at the Guggenheim said that anyone at the institution making over $80,000 would be taking pay cuts between 5% and 25% in the midst of the pandemic crisis, but Armstrong’s salary leapt from $1,073,991 (2019) to $1,504,081 (2020).

2020 was a year of turmoil for the Guggenheim on many levels. In the wake of the George Floyd protests, 200 former and current employees at the museum signed a letter alleging that the Guggenheim’s operating structure was riddled with systemic racism. The Guggenheim went on to develop a diversity plan and hired Ty Woodfolk to be the institution’s first chief culture and inclusion officer, and arts workers at the Guggenheim initiated plans to join a union; the IUOE Local 30.

“We fought hard for higher wages, better benefits and respect for Guggenheim workers for over one year,” William Lynn, the Business Manager of the IUOE Local 30, told Observer on Tuesday. “Management repeatedly stated that the museum was in a perpetual fiscal crisis. We kept fighting and ultimately won. If they can give executives exorbitant raises now, that means they can and should increase the wages of working people at the institution. We are more than ready for our next round of negotiations with management.” The Guggenheim’s Director Got a Big Raise While Staff Were Laid Off