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The boarded up entrance to the Whitney Museum of American Art (photo by Hakim Bishara for Hyperallergic)

At the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Congress allocated $350 billion for small business loans to mitigate the financial havoc wreaked by the crisis. Known as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the rescue package was meant to help small businesses of 500 employees or less retain their staff. Hyperallergic combed through public loan data from the Paycheck Protection Program made available by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and highlighted below notable instances of taxpayer dollars funneled to arts museums, commercial galleries, nonprofits, and publications.

Several arts organizations that received loans have implemented layoffs and furloughs, among them the Guggenheim and the Whitney Museums. The David Zwirner Gallery, which received loans, also announced the lay off of 40 employees last week.

PPP loans are distinct from the funds earmarked for the culture sector under the CARES Act, which provided a respective $75 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH); $50 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services; and $25 million for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC. The 19 museums that make up the Smithsonian Institution got a cumulative $7.5M (in New York City, the National Museum of the American Indian and the Cooper-Hewitt are part of the Smithsonian.)

It’s worth nothing that SBA has been sharply criticized for its uneven distribution of the aid to large corporations, such as Shake Shack, which notably returned its $10 million loan. Ultimately, the Treasury Department ruled that businesses with access to other sources of capital should not be eligible for the forgivable loans and asked public companies to return the funds. At least one of the arts organizations listed in this article appears to be a publicly traded company.

Finally, SBA provides only ranges, not specific loan amounts. This post will be continuously updated with exact numbers as we are able to confirm them.

—Valentina Di Liscia

(Full Disclosure: Hyperallergic secured a PPP loan but it is excluded from the data provided by SBA as it falls below the $150,000 threshold.)

Art Galleries

Workers boarding up the storefront of the Hauser & Wirth gallery on West 22nd Street (photo by Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic)

According to our count, 60 luxury art or design gallery spaces of various types in New York were recipients of PPP loans, though some of them, like Hauser & Wirth, not only received funds in New York state ($1–2M) but also in California ($350K–1M) under a similarly named entity (“HAUSER & WIRTH” vs. “HAUSER & WIRTH HOLDING AG, ZURICH”).

The data suggest four art gallery entities each received over $2M in PPP loans, including the David Zwirner Gallery (which received, according to public documents, two loans that total $3–7M), Gagosian ($2–5M), and Pace, which received at minimum $2.5M and perhaps as much as $6.35M. The amount for Pace doesn’t include Pace Editions, which also received a $350–1M loan, and Pace/Macgill, which received $150–350K.

While Hauser & Wirth and Levy Gorvy received at least $1M each, and over a dozen art galleries received between $350–1M, including 303 Gallery, Friendman Benda, Gavin Brown Enterprises, Gladstone Gallery, Jack Shainman, Michael Werner, Greene Naftali, Lehmann Maupin, Lisson Gallery, Luhring Augustine, Matthew Marks, Pace Editions, Paul Kasmin, and Skarstedt Gallery).

The largest group of galleries listed received $150–350K from the PPP program, including James Cohan Gallery, Aicon, Andrew Kreps, Anton Kern, Di Donna Galleries, Petzel, Hollis Taggart, Miguel Abreu, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Ronald Feldman, Salon 94, Van de Weghe, and many others.

A number of auction houses and art fairs also appear on the list. Bonhams Auction House received $2–5M, while Art Basel and TEFAF (Armory) both received $150–350K. —Hrag Vartanian

Museums

The Guggenheim Museum in NYC (photo by Dave Nakayama via Flickr)

More than 22 museums in NYC have received federal aid in PPP loans ranging from $150K to $10M. Topping the list are the Whitney Museum , which received a loan between $5-10M, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, which received a loan of $5,938,000. (The Whitney Museum have not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.)

The Jewish Museum, the Frick Collection, and the September 11 Memorial Museum received loans that range between $2-5M. Other institutions like the New Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Tenement Museum, the Rubin Museum, and the Museum of the City of New York have received loans of $1-2M. About eight other museums in the city received loans ranging from $350K-1M. Those include the Queens Museum, El Museo del Barrio, the American Museum of the Moving Image, the Museum of Arts and Design, and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, among others.

Small museums like the Bronx Museum, the Museum of Chinese in America, and the Leslie Lohman Museum have received between $150-350K in aid. —Hakim Bishara

Other Arts Nonprofits and Publications

A Dan Flavin installation at Dia:Beacon (photo by Chris Dignes via Flickr)

Several other nonprofit arts organizations in the city benefitted from PPP aid as well. These include major artists’ foundations, such as the Calder Foundation, which got a loan in the $150-350K range, and the Joan Mitchell and Judd foundations, which both got loans between $350K-1M. (The Joan Mitchell Foundation confirmed to Hyperallergic that it received a loan of $504,097, which allowed it to retain all staff in its New York City and New Orleans sites since their March closures; the Judd Foundation said it received $360,000 to retain staff in New York and Texas.)

Meanwhile, the Dia Center for the Arts, which includes both Dia:Beacon upstate and Dia:Chelsea in New York City, got $1-2M in aid. Two organizations dedicated to commissioning public art projects, the Public Art Fund and Creative Time, secured loans of between $350K-1M and $150-350K, respectively.

Publications also got a piece of the pie: Artnet Worldwide Corporation, which appears to be the same as the publicly traded company, received between $1-2M, while Artforum and Bookforum, listed jointly, got a loan in the $350K-1M range.

A number of smaller arts nonprofits are on this list, too. The Drawing Center (which has 11-50 employees, according to its LinkedIn profile) got a $150-350K loan, while Aperture Foundation secured between $350K-1M. —VD

Valentina Di Liscia

Valentina Di Liscia is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...

Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

17 replies on “Tens of Millions of Dollars in PPP Loans Went to NYC Museums, Art Galleries, and Orgs”

    1. Taxpayers are not the source of Federal Money. You have a profound misunderstanding of economics.

        1. The Feds print money for whatever they want, endless wars, corporate welfare, and so on. But when it comes to infrastructure, education, health care, etc., “we can’t afford it”.

          The key part here is “print”. Taxes don’t pay for anything at the federal level. The debt is one half of a balance sheet, the other have is the surplus that is circulating in society.

          1. Taxpayers are the guarantee that the debt is based on. But let’s not deflect. The point I made is about the patrons of the arts. Galleries and museums have manipulated the art markets to the advantage of their patrons. In times like these they should be the ones who pay up.

          2. The Great Bailout showered some $17 trillion on banksters. Remember, the US “debt” at the time was $10 trillion.The Pandemic bailout is costing trillions more and the “debt” was already over $22 trillion.

            Where did all that money come from?

            Taxpayers aren’t bailing out anyone. You have a profound misconception of economics.

          3. Your deflection is as limp as your claim to understand the U.S. economy. “Borrowing” aka “printing money” to be paid by future taxes on citizens is not a viable long term plan.

          4. Where was the money borrowed from? It did not exist, it was created out of thin air. It was not borrowed and it does not have to be paid back. Money is just an artificial construct, it is not a limited physical resource.

            The debt is 1/2 of a balance sheet, the other half is
            money in circulation. If you “paid off” the debt the economy would
            collapse. The money was created, not borrowed. It is a sham, a scam, an
            excuse not to fund things that do not benefit the overlords.

            They have you believing that the government is like you with a household budget of revenue and expenses. The difference is that you cannot create money on demand. The government does this to manage a sovereign economy (that has unfortunately largely been outsourced to banksters for their own benefit).

            Research Modern Monetary Theory. Rather than blatantly dismissing this because it does not agree with your belief system, try applying your intellect and exploring it.

          5. There is nothing profound about your denial. The ultimate responsibility for paying what is called “The National Debt” lands on the shoulders of the taxpayers.
            The museums and galleries mentioned in this article should have reached out to their patrons rather than take public funding. Something like GoFundMe style:..”We can keep our staff on the payroll of have our yacht upgraded. But we can’t do both. If you don’t want those people on unemployment send us money.”…yup that should work well…:)

          6. You have failed to answer several direct questions and have instead made blanket statements based on your beliefs. You don’t understand the concepts of sovereign economy, a balance sheet, or even basic economics.

            Have a nice day.

          7. “It was not borrowed and it does not have to be paid back.” You have failed to make a rational case…you are dismissed!

  1. The Guggenheim took $6m and laid off 92 employees. That’s not how this was supposed to work.

    Or maybe it was …

  2. Clearly the definition of what is “small business” needs to be changed in this country. A loan is a loan, and must be paid back, it’s not “free money.” People don’t seem to realize the infrastructure costs for museums. The Smithsonian is free to all visitors and also includes the newer National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of the American Indian. There are smaller arts organizations included in this grouping that deserve a break for sure. Pick and choose your battles. Meanwhile, mega churches that are nonprofit, but take in megabucks for sales of books, recordings, and other goods, received a huge handout and will not pay taxes on it like businesses.

  3. My arts council with an $85,000 budget and a part time employee, who we have kept on payroll, got a measly $1800 PPP loan, and that was after the first 3 banks we applied to offered us Only $450. We keep getting picked over for relief grants in favor of much bigger organizations too. Our county is trying to stiff us on PPE money from a $30 million fund from CARES because we only have a part time employee and the rest of the organization, including two galleries, is run by volunteers. I guess San Bernardino county feels that volunteers are expendable.

  4. The SBA will not even CONSIDER a “small business loan” without a projected profit, the FIRST year of $200,000! yeh, right, “small business” what BS. they do NOT want an population of independent entities living a free sustainable life.

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