The U.S. federal government’s Payment Protection Program, or PPP, has afforded artists and small arts nonprofits — included among small business owners — the ability to keep workers while we are under the Great Lockdown of 2020. The guidelines permit operations with fewer than 500 employees to apply for loans which could be forgiven eventually if the employees are kept on board.
The language of “small” however, comes under scrutiny when applied to blue-chip artists, museums, and mega-galleries, even while most artists and small businesses are still awaiting assistance or are not otherwise eligible. Artnet News reports today that artist Jeff Koons was awarded between $1 -$2 million. Koons has at times employed more than a hundred assistants, although, according to the same report, he laid off around 30 employees last January.
Meow Wolf, the George R.R. Martin beneficiaries of a New Mexico-bowling-alley-turned-family-friendly art theme park, was offered between $5 and $10 million. The organization laid off more than half of its staff last April at the height of the Great Lockdown.
Other fund recipients from the full list of PPP loans above $150,000 here include Tom Sachs and Sterling Ruby ($150,000 each). The list, released yesterday, discloses only value ranges of awards to organizations, and represents about three-fourths of aid distributed to date.
The commercial mega-galleries Pace, Gagosian, and David Zwirner all received between $2 million and $5 million, even as they, too, have furloughed and laid off employees. Zwirner recently posted a Social Media Coordinator job opening to Glasstire. The list contains other notable galleries such as Hauser and Wirth, 303 Gallery, Gladstone Gallery, Jack Shainman Gallery, and others, which received less than $1 million.
The large museums on the list — The Whitney, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art — also cut jobs and furloughed employees before they got PPP funds totaling between $5 million to $10 million each, according to Artnet.