U.S. museums brace for the crunch

The New York Times reported yesterday on the preparations of some major US museums for a possible dive in individual and corporate support of the arts– including donations of personal collections, rates of museum membership, and exhibition financing:

“There is bound to be belt-tightening across the board,” said Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “I imagine a lot of donors who are leveraged will probably be postponing decisions until the first of the year. A lot of people are waiting to see what happens, which means things will be put on hold.”

Mr. Govan said that he also wondered how the economic crisis would affect memberships, a crucial revenue stream for all museums. “We’re competing with buying gas and going out to dinner,” he said.

The Los Angeles museum’s memberships, which bring in about $8 million a year, range from $25 at the student level to $50,000 for members of the Director’s Circle (a status that affords what the museum terms “intimate dinners with artists and the director”).

In New York, meanwhile, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s office has asked the department of cultural affairs, which decides how much city money each museum receives, along with other city agencies, to reduce its spending by 2.5 percent in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and make an additional 5 percent cut in the next one.

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