A fuller picture of how Covid-19 lockdowns affected museum revenue is beginning to emerge, with international museums starting to reveal just how much they lost last year. The Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid reported on Monday that it sustained a 75.5 percent decrease in revenue in 2020, ending the financial year with a loss of 18.5 million euros ($22 million).
The lockdown provoked an unprecedented drop-off in attendance, with an 84 percent decline in ticket sales and a 90 percent decline in sales at the museum’s store and restaurants.
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The Prado was hardly the only European museum to sustain major losses in revenue in 2020. The Louvre in Paris, for example, saw a 72 percent decrease in attendance and lost $110.3 million in revenue. To mitigate losses, some have resorted to creative means. The Uffizi Galleries in Florence began minting NFTs of Renaissance artworks in its holdings to soften the blow of massive drops in attendance.
Within U.S. museums, the effects of the pandemic were equally destructive. Three quarters of American institutions saw their operating income diminish by 40 percent or more. Nearly half of respondents in a 2021 survey conducted by the American Alliance of Museums cut staff during the pandemic. On average, these museums reduced their workforce by 29 percent. Only 44 percent of respondents expected to rehire lost workers.
Slowly, institutions in the U.S. have begun to recover. According to the same AAM survey, only 15 percent of museums remain at high financial risk. When a similar survey was conducted in October, a third of museum directors believed their institutions might close permanently.
The Prado, meanwhile, can still count on government funding of 15.2 million euros ($18 million), as well as corporate and individual support amounting to 3.8 million euros (4.5 million dollars) in 2020—sums equal to amounts received in years past.
The museum also said on Monday that it had received two gifts from the American Friends of the Prado Museum: Pablo Picasso’s Buste de Femme 43 and Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Phillip III. The former painting had previously been held by the Arango Montull family.