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Metropolitan Museum of Art prioritizes repairs over new wing as funds run low

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The museum’s financial troubles are at the forefront of a new report

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The past year has been rather eventful for the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Amid record-breaking attendance numbers, the museum opened its new modern- and contemporary-focused outpost at the Whitney’s former headquarters, and engaged in a (not entirely well-received) rebranding mission across the institution’s three New York branches.

But there’s also been some tumult: expenses are up, revenue is down, and the museum has been forced to take action (including laying off or offering buyouts to 90 employees) in order to course-correct. Over the weekend, The New York Times published a report looking at how the Met is responding to these challenges—and, depending on one’s viewpoint, it’s an examination of “a great institution in decline” (that’s per the museum’s former chairman of its prints and drawings department), or a year in which “an awful lot of wonderful things have gone on” (according to one of its trustees)—or, heck, both.

The report also offered some insight into why, exactly, the Met’s proposed $600 million expansion, designed by David Chipperfield, is on hold. According to the Times, the museum has instead decided to “prioritize the replacement of its aging skylights and roof above the European paintings galleries.” The Chipperfield-designed wing would add 180,000 square feet to the museum’s existing Fifth Avenue building, and is intended as a permanent home for its collection of modern and contemporary art. It was due to open in 2020 to coincide with the museum’s 150th anniversary.

However, the cost of opening and maintaining the Met Breuer, in the Whitney’s former Marcel Breuer-designed headquarters, was greater than anticipated; that, coupled with the museum’s other financial troubles, forced its leadership to put the new wing on hold.

Still, it may not be on hold for too long: the Met’s director and chief executive, Thomas P. Campbell, previously told the Times that the new wing could begin construction while repairs to the existing galleries are underway, though no timetable for that has been confirmed. Repairs are expected to take about four years to complete.

Some other insights from the piece: the Met will reduce its number of exhibitions from 60 per year to about 40; the Met’s total attendance is now at about seven million visitors per year; and the Breuer outpost had about 557,000 visitors last year, exceeding expectations.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

1000 5th Ave., New York, NY 10028