Jeff Koons, Pace and Other Art World Heavyweights Had Millions of Dollars in PPP Loans Canceled

Jared Kushner, Jay Z and Reese Witherspoon have all made headlines recently with the release of a new ProPublica Database listing the 11.5 million loans approved by the US government under its $953 million emergency payment protection program (PPP).

The scheme, a pandemic-era measure intended to keep the economy stable amid the extreme uncertainty of an early lockdown, allowed business owners with fewer than 500 employees to apply for loans to use to pay their workers and other key expenses. Reports indicate that 93% of those eligible for the funds have actually received them.

As expected, the government has canceled a large portion of loans, even for debtors with immense net worth, as long as the funds are spent on payroll or other approved costs.

In the art world, Jeff Koons, the world’s most expensive artist at auction, is perhaps the biggest name to ever secure a major PPP loan. He was granted $1.1 million for his operation on April 27, 2020. The entire loan was canceled seven months later, according to public documents.

But Koons wasn’t the only figure in the art world to get PPP money. Top-notch mega-galleries including David Zwirner ($6.9m), Hauser & Wirth ($4.5m), Gagosian ($3.5m) and Pace ($3.4m) ) each received loans, and each had them canceled in full, plus any accrued interest.

Of these, only David Zwirner and Hauser and Wirth requested more than one loan, each guaranteeing four separate funding rounds.

In a statement, a Pace representative said, “Pace participated in the Paycheck Protection Program to protect the jobs of our employees in the face of the global health pandemic and the economic hardship it has caused. All loan money went to staff salaries.

We contacted all the other institutions named in this article; none responded to our request for comment at the time of publication.

Smaller galleries have also applied for and received funding. The Jack Shainman Gallery, Blum and Poe and Kasmin each raised between $350,000 and $1 million and were canceled entirely. Luhring Augustine and Matthew Marks also applied for loans, securing $181,500 and $401,852 respectively.

The Marlborough Gallery, meanwhile, got $602,900, but whether its loan was canceled is not disclosed in ProPublica filings. Artnet also requested and received $2 million in three separate loans, all of which were cancelled.

According to a January 2022 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, 75% of the nearly $800 billion in taxpayer funds from the PPP program benefited the top 20% of households. Only a fraction of the sum went to workers who would otherwise have lost their jobs.

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