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MoMA Raises Admission to $25, Paid Director Lowry $1.6 Million

Glenn Lowry
Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art. Lowry was paid $1.6 million in 2009. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which is raising adult admission 25 percent to $25, paid Director Glenn Lowry $1.6 million in 2009.

Though Lowry took a 14 percent compensation cut, he remained among the best paid museum directors. His salary and bonus totaled $830,000. He also received $403,635 in retirement and other deferred compensation, plus housing in the museum’s luxury condominium tower valued at $318,000, according to MoMA’s 2009-2010 tax return.

The admission increase from $20 goes into effect Sept. 1, a result of escalating costs, the museum announced last week.

Ellen Futter, who runs the American Museum of Natural History, earned $972,249 in salary and benefits in 2009, up 0.5 percent from a year earlier. The Metropolitan Museum of Art paid its new chief, Thomas Campbell, $929,735. In July, the Met raised its adult admission to $25, which, unlike MoMA’s, is “suggested.”

Both Futter and Campbell earned what amounts to 20 cents per visitor in 2009-2010, while Lowry earned more than 50 cents for every attendee. The Met and the Museum of Natural History are public institutions that sit on city-owned land and depend on government beneficence. By contrast, MoMA sits on private land and receives little government operating support.

Since being hired from Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario in 1995, Lowry has worked to double gallery space. He led an $858 million capital campaign that increased square footage for exhibitions by 40,000, to 125,000.

More Gallery Space

To expand further, MoMA paid $31 million for the 30,000-square-foot American Folk Art Museum building next door. A 2007 agreement calls for the developer Hines to build a mixed-use skyscraper adjacent to MoMA that will add about 40,000 square feet to exhibition space.

The museum established Lowry’s pay preeminence early. He received $5.2 million in his first eight years, in addition to compensation directly from the museum, according to spokesman Kim Mitchell. The money came from a trust created by two museum board members, David Rockefeller and Agnes Gund.

Lowry got $2.2 million for living expenses, including mortgage and maintenance payments for an Upper East Side apartment that he bought. The museum also gave him money for the down payment, Mitchell said. In 1999, the trust bought the apartment from Lowry for $3 million. He netted $1.3 million from the sale, she said.

A record 3.1 million people visited MoMA in the 12 months ending in June 2010. Draws included an exhibition of work by film director Tim Burton, and the performance artist Marina Abramovic sitting motionless among dancers, many nude, standing, lying down and suspended on a wall.

Outside New York, Michael Brand, the director of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles until January 2010, earned $891,114 in pay and benefits in 2009, while James Cuno, president and director of the Art Institute of Chicago, earned $1.1 million. Cuno takes over the J. Paul Getty Trust today.

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