The US Museum Directors Salary Data

The US Museum Directors Salary Causes Disparity Compared to "Ordinary" Workers While Institutions Struggle Financially.

Aug 26, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
The American Revolution Museum, The US Museum
The Museum of the American Revolution. Via WIkipedia


The US museum directors earn a large amount of money. But with many institutions facing tighter finances, as well as protests for pay equalization, some changes are underway among many. For example, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art sold the housing flat which lies on the Fifth Avenue. The institution used this complex for CEO housing exempt from taxes for former director Thomas Campbell and his forerunners.


“The U.S. museum directors should not have such high salaries” – Rosenstein

met museum steps, The US Museum
The Met Façade on 5th Avenue photographed by Spencer Platt, 2018, via the New Yorker


This “luxury” came to an end in 2019, when the apartment sold for $5.4 million. The museum used the money to repair its inancial situation and reduce the deficit. Current director Max Hollein eceives money to pay for accommodation, on which he also pays tax.  Latest tax returns reveal he received $1.4 million in overall pay.


“I don’t think it’s justifiable for institution directors to earn such high salaries when so many museum workers continue to earn low, unsustainable wages”, Maida Rosenstein, the Local 2110 president said. She also added: “This is precisely why so many workers at these institutions are organizing unions—to push for fairer compensation, more job security, and sustainable jobs that allow people to survive and continue doing work they love doing”.


albert barnes winter
Image © The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. Photo by Michael Perez.


New York’s The Met directors’ salary is one of the highest for this position. The highest salary has Glenn Lowry, New York’s Museum of Modern Art director. His salary consists of $2 million. Lowry also had other perks to his job – a $6 million apartment on the roof above the institution, for which he does not pay rent.

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Selling Property to Secure Finances

modern movement kimbell art
The exterior of Kimbell Art Institution, via ArchDaily


A MoMA spokeswoman spoke about job requirements that directors need to follow: “As a condition of employment and convenience to the institution, the director must reside in the museum-owned apartment on premises. This supports the facility’s essential operations and mission while dually serving as an important on-site venue for official events the director is required to host”.


If an employee lives on “business grounds”, the tax rule says the free accommodation does not include as his income. But, this became a weaker practice of cultural institutions. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s director, Michael Govan made arrangements to sell two homes that previous individuals in his position possessed. They are worth $6.5 million and $2.4 million, which is the money museum really needed.


County Museum of Art
Chris Roman


Other top art director salaries for these institutions include $1.6 million at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; $1.5 million at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; $1.1 million at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and $1 million at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.