The Metropolitan Opera has put up two giant Marc Chagall murals in its lobby as collateral on an existing loan, the latest sign of how the nation's top fine arts institutions are struggling to cope with the economic downturn.
Met spokesman Peter Clark said Monday the nation's premier opera house was using the 30- by 36-foot paintings to serve as collateral for "a longstanding loan." He would not identify the loan or the appraised value of the works, "The Triumph of Music" and "The Sources of Music."
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts commissioned the murals from the French painter for its lobby in the 1960s. The paintings will remain in the lobby unless the Met defaults on the loan. Clark wasn't sure whether the Met had used art works as collateral before. The Met's Chagall collateral was first reported by New York Magazine.
The Met is dropping some planned revivals from its 2009-2010 season and substituting less costly productions. It is also slashing senior staff members' salaries by 10 percent to stay within its $291 million annual budget. The opera house's $300 million endowment has fallen with stock prices, along with donations, Met General Manager Peter Gelb said.
The trend of putting up fine art as collateral has been growing in recent months as the economy staggers. An increasing number of people are turning to firms that lend money against fine and decorative arts after having their assets wiped out by the financial crisis.
Photographer Annie Liebovitz is among artists who have recently put up their work as collateral to borrow millions from lenders.
Liebovitz borrowed more than $15 million against rights to all her photographs and her New York townhouse, according to city records.