Workers Protest at MoMA Gala: "Modern Art, Ancient Wages"

Not everyone was wining, dining and soaking up each other’s awesomeness at the MoMA’s ultra glamorous Party in The Garden gala that took place earlier this week. As fabulous guests like Jeff Koons, Steve McQueen and Chuck Close arrived they were greeted by fine art, hip music and a loud protest where the workers of the museum stood outside the MoMA and chanted “Modern art, ancient wages!"

This year, the annual gala honored artists Richard Serra and Kara Walker, and celebrated David Rockefeller’s 100th birthday, but only those indoors were dancing the night away to the musical stylings of Chromeo and [The Weeknd]( /articles?utf8=✓&search=The+Weeknd). Outside the event, MoMA employees, ranging from curators to educators to sales people, were protesting and voicing their frustration over the museum’s projected cuts to workers’ health care coverage.

In total, the MoMA employs 286 people in all sorts of positions. Unlike Glenn Lowry, the museum’s director, who earns 1.8 million a year, the average MoMA employee earns an $49,000 and some of which earn as little as $29,000. Many of these are curators who have master’s degrees and families to care for. Luke Baker, a curatorial assistant, explained "We really want to make sure that working here, and giving as much as we give to the museum, that this is a tenable position for us and that we’re able to stay here. And that means being able to afford living in New York City. Supporting our families. Paying our student loans. Things of that nature. It’s all one thing. Wages, healthcare. It’s all connected for us. It’s all about being able to stay in our jobs.”

Similarly, Grace Kwon, a visitor services assistant who earns $886.72 every 2 weeks, told The Gothamist, "I’m in a senior position, and I take home maybe $100 above the poverty line every month.”

New York City is the most expensive city in America, and living here sure ain’t easy. Although the NY minimum wage is expected to reach $9 next year, that .25 cent increase fails to adequately tend to the needs of New Yorkers. But with movements like Fight For $15, which aims to raise fast food workers’ wages to $15, many are beginning to recognize that low wages are not sustainable and should no longer be tolerated.

Politicians, too, have begun understanding that making ends meet is a struggle for many. While Bill de Blasio has voiced his desire to push the NY minimum wage to $13 by 2016, he has not yet done so. With LA planning to achieve a $15 minimum wage, perhaps we, too, may be on our way to higher pay.

Photos by Mountains of Travel and Emma Whitford

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