Transparency can be radical, especially in an industry as financially oblique as the art world. Last Friday, museum workers began contributing to a Google Spreadsheet documenting their place of employment, salary rates, and demographic details like race and gender. The data points offer crucial insight into the economic hierarchies inside some of the world’s most prestigious museums.
Entitled “Art/Museum Salary Transparency,” the spreadsheet has attracted more than 660 submissions after it was published just three days ago. The public push for disclosure adds to an insurgent movement of artists and museum workers who wish to address the economic inequalities manifest in cultural institutions. Tensions have increased in recent years as museums embark on multimillion-dollar expansion projects, arts staff unionize across the country, and activists scrutinize the ethics of institutional funding.
“Just be brave and add your information to the list,” suggests Michelle Millar Fisher, an assistant curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She and her colleagues created the spreadsheet to increase solidarity among arts workers, many of whom struggle to make ends meet on their salaries alone. They were inspired by the Adjunct Project, Kimberly Drew’s keynote address at the 2019 American Alliance of Museums conference, and the ongoing POWarts salary survey.
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