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The National Gallery of Australia Will Axe at Least 10 Percent of Its Staff and Slash Its Annual Acquisitions by More Than 95 Percent

The National Gallery of Australia Will Axe at Least 10 Percent of Its Staff and Slash Its Annual Acquisitions by More Than 95 Percent

The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra is taking drastic measures to snap itself out of a looming financial crisis.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, June 23, the museum, which is facing a multi-million dollar deficit, said it was asking staff members to volunteer for layoffs before moving forward with a non-voluntary restructuring plan.

In total, the museum is looking to cut between 10 percent and 12 percent of its 300-person staff.

The museum said that employees who signed up for layoffs would be “paid their full entitlements and offered wellbeing support and career assistance opportunities,” but did not elaborate on details.

The institution, which reopened on June 2 after a months-long closure and is allowing only 20 visitors at a time, will also dramatically slash its annual acquisitions program to recoup an estimated $1.5 million.

To do so, it will look to acquire only 100 works of art per year, down from 3,000. The museum tells Arnet News it has no plans to deaccession any works.

“We, like every arts and cultural institution, have to look to create a future where we can sustainably deliver on our mandate. We have needed a plan that will both improve and protect the gallery’s long-term offering and our financial stability,” museum director Nick Mitzevich said in a statement. “Inevitably, that means change.”

Mitzevich, who was appointed in late 2018, told the  that the cutbacks are related not only worldwide economic headwinds, but also to longstanding budgetary problems at the museum driven by rising utility and maintenance costs, and falling interest rates.

According to the , the museum was over budget by $12.8 million in 2018–19, eventually reporting a $10.7 million loss, even though the Australian government increased its funding to the institution from $30.6 million to $45 million.

According to a spokesperson from the museum, non-government funds, including ticket sales and other revenue streams, account for 30 percent of the museum’s revenue.

In 2019, the National Gallery undertook a new acquisitions strategy focusing on “masterworks rather than volume.” The policy change was followed by the acquisition of a Jordan Wolfson work for nearly $5 million—half of the museum’s collecting budget for that year.


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