NYC Wage Transparency Regulation Exposes Artwork World’s Lowest Wages

Gustave Courbet’s “Stone Breakers” holding museum protest indicators (edit Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

On November 1, New York Metropolis’s wage transparency regulation went into impact, lastly illuminating the murky realm of compensation throughout industries. Workplaces with 4 or extra workers should now disclose pay of their job postings “in good religion,” and present listings present that almost all employers look like complying, even within the notoriously opaque artwork world.

In some instances, the brand new regulation has served to reveal simply how meager some salaries within the cultural sectors stay. As museum workforces throughout the nation proceed to unionize, a well-liked rallying cry has emerged amongst employees: “You possibly can’t eat status.” Hyperallergic took a deep dive into NYC’s artwork job postings, and it seems that some employers are nonetheless asking their employees to just do that.

Beneath are a number of of probably the most egregious postings we noticed at galleries, museums, and public sale homes, many requiring superior levels and providing salaries far under New York Metropolis’s dwelling wage.

Rhea Nayyar contributed reporting.

Whitney Museum of American Artwork

On the Whitney in Manhattan’s expensive Chelsea neighborhood, a posting for a safety officer presents $19.89 an hour and requires no less than two years of expertise. A customer and member assistant position is listed at $17 an hour and asks for a yr of customer-facing work expertise.

Wages for such roles on the Whitney and elsewhere elevate questions in regards to the feasibility of working in Manhattan, the place rents reached a document excessive this yr. The typical one-bedroom condo in Manhattan is priced at $4,278, however even a studio is $3,145. It seems to be like these employees might want to stay deep in one other borough, with a handful of roommates and a probably lengthy commute.

Brooklyn Museum

On the Brooklyn Museum, the place employees are negotiating their first contract after unionizing in January, a growth assistant — a job tasked with supporting the museum’s multimillion-dollar fundraising efforts — will make solely $45,000 a yr, coming in additional than $7,000 in need of New York Metropolis’s dwelling wage of $52,873 for an individual with out kids, as calculated by the Massachusetts Institute of Expertise.

Gagosian Gallery

Entrance Desk Affiliate | Bachelor’s and/or Grasp’s diploma, one yr of expertise | $23 an hour

Outdoors of the museum world, a entrance desk affiliate at Gagosian Gallery mustn’t solely have no less than a Bachelor’s diploma in artwork historical past, however may count on to make solely $45,000 a yr. Good luck paying again these pupil loans.

Sperone Westwater

Gross sales Assistant | Bachelor’s diploma | $50,000-75,000 a yr

Some corporations are “complying” with the brand new wage transparency regulation by posting compensation within the type of absurd ranges — Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, for instance, discovered media roles with pay ranges of almost $100,000. At Sperone Westwater, a up to date artwork gallery in SoHo, a gross sales assistant can count on to make someplace between $50,000 and $75,000 — a 50% leap that takes the worker from under the dwelling wage to considerably above it.

The Shed

Visible Arts Handler | Bachelor’s diploma or 3 years of expertise | No wage posted

Candidates for the arts handler job on the Shed, the multidisciplinary middle in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards, won’t solely apply with out understanding the place’s wage, however might want to recommend their very own compensation vary. As of November 10, the place description on the establishment’s web site suggested candidates to “present wage necessities together with your utility.”


Enterprise Growth Coordinator | Bachelor’s diploma, two to 3 years of expertise | $45-50,000 a yr

Cataloguer | Bachelor’s diploma, Grasp’s most well-liked, two years of expertise | $47-52,000 a yr

Short-term United States Tax Administrator | Bachelor’s diploma, one yr of expertise | $20-25 an hour

Short-term Artwork Handler | $20-25 an hour

Public sale homes provided among the lowest wages within the listings Hyperallergic surveyed. Many roles are short-term or seasonal, which might exclude these workers from advantages like medical insurance underneath the necessities of the Reasonably priced Care Act. Christie’s raked in $7.1 billion in gross sales final yr — and yesterday bought $1.5 billion value of artwork in the most costly public sale in its historical past — however a enterprise growth coordinator in Trusts, Estates & Value determinations will make solely $45-50,000 a yr. Whereas that wage is already under New York Metropolis’s dwelling wage as calculated by MIT, it comes with extra necessities than entry-level positions: two to 3 years of labor expertise on prime of a most well-liked Bachelor’s diploma. A cataloguer within the ornamental arts division may even makes lower than the dwelling wage at solely $47-52,000 a yr, with a minimal of two years paid expertise within the arts and a Bachelor’s diploma within the nice or ornamental artwork class (or equal work expertise), however a Grasp’s diploma is most well-liked. 

The public sale home can be promoting a number of short-term positions. A United States tax administrator (Bachelor’s diploma and a yr work expertise required) will make $20-25 an hour, and a short-term artwork handler will make $25 an hour, inching near the $25.42 dwelling wage however particularly notable attributable to Christie’s try final month to aestheticize the murals handlers with a tasteless sweatshirt.


Director of Advertising and marketing and Technique | 10 years of expertise | $135-210,000 a yr

Short-term Put up Sale Coordinator | 3-5 years of expertise | $22-26 an hour

Property handler | $24.50 an hour

At Sotheby’s, wages had been equally low and seasonal, however some provided doubtful ranges, too: The director of promoting and technique for the Luxurious Division can count on to make anyplace between $135,000 to $210,000 a yr — a spot that would pay the annual wage of its lowest-paid employees two occasions over. A property handler will make $24.50 an hour, under the $25.42 dwelling wage, however consistent with the union contract. The public sale home pulled in $7.3 billion in gross sales in 2021.


Phillips, the smaller of the ability participant public sale home trifecta, can be promoting unlivable wages. An accounting assistant will earn $18.27 to $20.19 per hour, a part-time seasonal operations assistant (with three years of expertise in an “public sale home, internationally acknowledged gallery or museum”!) will make a meager $20.00 to $23.00 per hour, and a spring intern within the twentieth century and modern artwork division will make solely $15 {dollars} an hour, the minimal wage in New York Metropolis. That’s an enchancment from the extraordinarily low bar set by unpaid internships, which have sparked dialog in previous years surrounding their position in furthering range and inclusion disparities at artwork establishments. Whereas Phillips is smaller than Sotheby’s and Christie’s, it nonetheless made $1.2 billion in gross sales in 2021, probably the most profitable yr in its historical past.

Faculty of Visible Arts

One of many lowest wages we discovered was $38,200 for an affiliate in mail processing and workplace providers on the Faculty of Visible Arts, however as of November 10, the establishment didn’t disclose wage for a number of of its open positions.

New York joins a bunch of different states with related wage transparency legal guidelines, and for the artwork world, it’s been a very long time coming. Over the summer time, the Community of Rising Museum Professionals created a database that tracks which job boards put up compensation, and a month later, the American Alliance of Museums introduced it will require pay transparency on their job board efficient November 15. Whereas employers have modified their itemizing to adjust to the brand new regulation, lots of their salaries have remained disappointing.

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