Transparency (and a Google spreadsheet) might change the art world.
Since May 31, employees in museums and art galleries around the world have been submitting their salaries anonymously to a Google Spreadsheet entitled Arts + All Museums Salary Transparency 2019, according to a report by Hyperallergic. And less than one week later, it already has over 1,800 entries (as of this writing).
The spreadsheet also lists the museums or galleries where employees work, their country of employment, their role, job benefits, education, gender, and race, among other categories. It comes at a time when salary surveys in the arts are finally being taken after years of relative secrecy.
The document was reportedly created by assistant curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Michelle Millar Fisher, whose team was inspired by the City University of New York (CUNY) Adjunct Project, which aims to provide fair pay for PhD students teaching in the CUNY system. Both projects have one thing in common: the desire to promote salary transparency.
“I’ve been an adjunct, a nanny, a cook — and lots of other things to support myself,” Fisher told Hyperallergic. “All of us in the arts have had to take other jobs, and that will likely always be the case.”
While positions like curatorial assistant hover around $40,000 a year, the highest position in a museum, such as museum president or director, can run anywhere from $400,000 to $800,000, according to the spreadsheet. And seasonal employees are becoming increasingly common, according to an anonymous coworker of Fisher’s.
While this data can’t be confirmed due to the anonymous nature of its sources, the release of the spreadsheet comes at a time when several industries are having open conversations about wage disparity. For example, a recent Axios analysis found the median pay of a healthcare CEO in 2018 was $7.7 million, and chief executives of 177 healthcare companies made a cumulative $2.6 billion.
And a 2019 Wall Street Journal analysis found the median salary for 132 CEOs in the S&P 500 was $12.4 million in 2018, up from $11.7 million in 2017.