Even before the pandemic, the issue of pay disparity had been percolating at cultural institutions. Last year, arts workers across the country began to anonymously post their job titles and salaries, alongside those of museum officials, in a spreadsheet meant to call attention to the issue.
“We have an inequity in our compensation schemes,” said Michael M. Kaiser, chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland, who has run several major arts institutions. “Where there is a disproportionate salary for the leader of large institutions, it arises from the fact that boards are so nervous, because they don’t know how to run these institutions themselves.”
To be sure, good arts executives are considered hard to find, so successful ones tend to be handsomely rewarded. In addition, many trustees are also highly compensated chief executives, for whom the pay level of a museum director may not register as significant compared to their own earnings.
Executive Pay at New York City Museums
Many of the top bosses received compensation packages last year of more than $1 million, as indicated on the most recent tax filings by the museums. Many also took pay reductions this year in response to budget gaps created by the pandemic.
1. Glenn D. Lowry, Museum of Modern Art
Total compensation: $5.1 million*
Total expenses: $267 million
2. Ellen V. Futter, American Museum of Natural History
Total compensation: $1.8 million
Total expenses: $215 million
3. Richard D. Armstrong, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
Total compensation: $1.4 million**
Total expenses: $74.6 million
4. Daniel H. Weiss, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Total compensation: $1.25 million
Total expenses: $491 million
5. Adam D. Weinberg, Whitney Museum of American Art
Total compensation: $1.1 million
Total expenses: $89.4 million
6. Josette Sheeran, Asia Society
Total compensation: $937,000
Total expenses: $32.7 million
7. Ian Wardropper, The Frick Collection
Total compensation: $851,000
Total expenses: $41.9 million
8. Lisa Phillips, New Museum of Contemporary Art
Total compensation: $768,000
Total expenses: $17.5 million
9. Louise Mirrer, New-York Historical Society
Total compensation: $715,000
Total expenses: $43.3 million
10. Colin B. Bailey, Morgan Library and Museum
Total compensation: $648,000
Total expenses: $27.7 million
Source: Museum federal tax returns
*Compensation includes one-time retirement plan payout earned in earlier years.
**Compensation for 2018.