On Monday, the Small Business Association released data on thousands of businesses that received federal loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Launched in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the PPP was intended to offer relief to small businesses by covering payroll costs for their employees. So far, the program has allocated over $500 billion through 4.9 million loans, with about $130 billion remaining. It is important to note that the data released only includes loans over $150,000, and only specifies a range (e.g. $1–2 million) as opposed to the exact loan amount. While these loans equal almost 75% of the total money doled out, they represent only about 13% of the total number of loans, as the vast majority are less than $150,000, according to CNBC.
The PPP has undoubtedly allowed hundreds of thousands of businesses to retain their employees while they struggle to survive the economic collapse wrought by the pandemic. The program has come under fire, however, as critics attack what they see as uneven, or even corrupt, distribution of aid, with larger companies receiving sizable sums as smaller ones struggled to qualify. LAist noted that “wealthier, whiter areas of LA County received far more Paycheck Protection Program loans than lower-income areas where residents are primarily people of color.” Former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich tweeted that loans were awarded to “400 country clubs and golf resorts,” Soho House, Kanye West, and associates of Jared Kushner, while “90% of small businesses owned by BIPOC and women” were left out, calling it “crony capitalism at its worst.”
Earlier this week, Hyperallergic delved into the data to report on which galleries, museums, and arts institutions in New York City received loans. Today, we take a similar look at Los Angeles to see how the federal funds were allocated amongst the art venues of the Southland.
Museums and Arts Nonprofits
The largest loans going to LA arts organizations were in the $5 and 10 million range, and went to the Huntington Library, Art Museum, & Botanical Gardens, and to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which is filed under the name Museum Associates. The next tier is between $2 and 5 million and occupied by the Skirball Museum, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the Hammer Museum.
In late March, the Hammer announced a “work curtailment” for 150 part-time student workers, with a representative for the museum explaining to Hyperallergic that the employees would be paid through mid-June. “The SBA [Small Business Administration] loan did exactly what it was designed to do: it protected the jobs of the Hammer’s full and part-time staff,” the representative told Hyperallergic via email. “And yes, it did enable the Hammer to save the jobs of our part-time student employees. SBA funds were used to pay them through mid-June, and we did not lay off any staff. They continue to be on the payroll and we look forward to having our part-time frontline staff in place when we re-open in early September.”
The Autry Museum of the American West, the Petersen Automotive Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), each received between $1 and 2 million. MOCA laid off 97 part-time employees in late March, and furloughed the rest shortly thereafter. A museum representative told Hyperallergic that it did apply for a PPP loan early on and received it, but turned it down because it felt that accepting the terms of the loan would be fiscally irresponsible at that time — because the museum had already laid off or furloughed staff, and the PPP was intended for staff on payroll, MOCA believed they would have had to repay the entire loan. Later, when the SBA changed the loan terms — allowing a much longer window for businesses to rehire employees so the loans could be forgiven — MOCA reapplied and received aid.
“MOCA applied for and received a PPP loan in late June,” the museum representative told Hyperallergic via email. “At the start of our fiscal year on July 1 we began bringing back our furloughed staff and will continue to do so with each month, through our estimated reopening in September. A total of 34 furloughed staff will return to work and in addition, 18 partially furloughed employees will return to full-time status.”
Despite the aid package, MOCA recently decided to issue further layoffs in the communications, finance, curatorial, and operations departments. “As we looked at our upcoming fiscal year with a smaller exhibition program and a significantly reduced budget, we did have to make difficult staffing decisions and we were required to eliminate 10 positions,” the representative explained.
The Broad Museum also laid off 130 employees in April, but was not on the list of loan recipients. According to a Broad spokesperson, “The Broad did not apply for PPP funding. Implementing layoffs was a difficult decision, made on the basis of an anticipated reduction in operations and limited visitor capacity for an extended period after reopening. The Broad provided between six and 10 weeks of pay, including five weeks of regular pay and severance pay, tiered according to tenure.”
Institutions that received between $350,000 to $1 million were the Japanese American National Museum, Long Beach Museum of Art, Palm Springs Art Museum, and the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. Loans of between $150,000 and $350,000 were given to LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, the Laguna Art Museum, the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), the Wende Museum, the Orange County Museum of Art, the Institution of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA), and the Museum of the Holocaust.
Art Galleries and Art Dealers
Some of LA’s larger galleries were on the list, including Blum & Poe, David Kordansky Gallery, Regen Projects, and Hauser & Wirth, which each received between $350,000 and $1 million. Hauser & Wirth also received between $1 and 2 million in New York. Gagosian did not receive funds in California, where it has a space in Beverly Hills, but did receive between $2 and 5 million in New York. Despite the loan, Gagosian issued furloughs and salary reductions earlier this year.
Iconic print house Gemini G.E.L. received between $150,000 and $350,000, as did veteran Venice gallery LA Louver. Also included amongst the businesses categorized as “art dealers” was Kevin Barry Fine Art, a high-end art consultancy in Santa Monica which received more than any other LA gallery, between $1 and 2 million. Another notable recipient is Simcor, LLC, which received between $150,000 and $350,000. The unassumingly named company is founded by controversial collector, curator, consultant, and art flipper Stefan Simchowitz. (His loan was not immediately discovered by Hyperallergic since the business classification code was omitted from the data.) A 2015 New York Times article estimated that Simchowitz’s 1,500-piece collection was worth up to $30 million.
A few artists’ studios also received aid, including Charles Ray, Charles Gaines, and Sterling Ruby, who each got between $150,000 and $350,000, while Paul McCarthy’s studio was granted between $350,000 and $1 million. Karen McCarthy, the artist’s wife, told Bloomberg that the loan was “critical,” allowing them to hold on to their full staff of 36 employees.
One of the largest art book publishers in the world, Taschen, received between $350,000 and $1 million. So did C Publishing, which puts out C Magazine, focused on California style and culture.
Editor’s note: Since the time of publication this article has been updated to include comment from the Broad Museum and the PPP loan recipient Simcor, LLC.