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MoMA Celebrates $100M Gift as the Met Plans Budget Cuts

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MoMA moves ahead on an ambitious expansion as the MET struggles with a budget deficit

It's a battle of the New York cultural institutions, with news this week of both a $100 million gift from David Geffen to MoMA and a projected deficit of $9 to $10 million at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The New York Times broke down the cause of a "flush MoMA, struggling Met" while the Wall Street Journal focused on the MET's budget deficits and Crain's offered details on David Geffen's MoMA gift.

Beginning with MoMA, billionaire--and art collector--David Geffen announced his $100 million gift for the renovation and expansion of the modern art museum. Three floors of new galleries, which will be incorporated with the Jean Nouvel tower at 53 West 53rd Street, will be dubbed the David Geffen Wing. In addition, a fourth-floor suite of galleries in the current museum building also will be named after him. MoMA is doing the project, expected to cost upwards of $400 million, in phases and will be done in 2019 or 2020. It'll increase the museum's gallery space by 30 percent to 174,000 square feet.

As MoMA's preparing for a big expansion, the MET is looking at cutbacks. MET Museum officials told WSJ that if nothing is done about their current budget deficit, it could swell to as much as $40 million over the next 18 months. Coming changes might include cutting spending and streamlining operations, job cuts and decreasing the number of special exhibitions. The museum's problem, it says, are the rising costs of salaries and benefits at a time when admissions revenue is not increasing. (The suggested admission was raised from $20 to $25 in 2011.)

One of the reasons the MET is struggling, the Times posits, is their lack of contemporary artwork at a time of its rising popularity. In response, the MET Breuer opened this March. The $17 million it takes to run each year was raised philanthropically, according to the MET, and has no direct effect on the deficit. But as the Times said, "The focus on building its Modern and contemporary capacity has also siphoned energy and resources away from the Met’s Fifth Avenue flagship."

The MET will also suspend design work on their own expansion process, which calls for demolishing the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing in the museum’s southwest corner to increase exhibition space and double the Roof Garden, until money has been raised for the project.