National Labor Relations Board Investigating Marciano Art Foundation After Staff Layoffs

Zuma Press/Newscom
The Marciano Art Foundation

The museum also said it would close its doors days after visitors service employees voted to join a union.

The National Labor Relations Board is set to investigate the Koreatown-adjacent Marciano Arts Foundation after employees forming a union were laid off abruptly on Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Visitors service employees of the arts nonprofit organization — founded by Guess Jeans co-owners and prolific art collectors Maurice and Paul Marciano — were given notice on Tuesday evening in an email that said their jobs would end Thursday. Moreover, the employees were told that due to "low attendance," the institution would be closed until further notice. The foundation was previously set to keep its doors open to host ongoing exhibitions by Yayoi Kusama and Nicholas Party.

"Due to low attendance the past few weeks Marciano Art Foundation will be closing the current exhibitions early on Nov. 6 after a five-month run. We have no present plans to reopen," the Marciano Art Foundation confirmed in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

The two-year-old foundation's abrupt closure comes days after leaders of an upstart union for the museum filed with the National Labor Relations Board to represent visitors service employees. The organizers followed the lead of art museums including the Guggenheim, the Tenement Museum and the New Museum, which have all made moves to organize in recent months.

MAF Union employees were looking to join American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 36, which also represents some employees at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. THR has reached out to AFSCME for comment.

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 deems it illegal for employers "to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it." The NLRB is set to investigate the foundation following the layoff of visitors service employees.

According to the MAF Union, the group of employees that voted to organize at the foundation, 70 workers in total were given notice on Tuesday night. "This is a gross obstruction of workers' rights," the MAF Union said Tuesday in an Instagram post. "A complete disregard for its employees and their livelihoods. Today, we filed. Tonight, we were fired. Tomorrow, we fight."

The Marcianos have been dogged by labor complaints in their fashion work, prior to dipping their toes in the art scene. In 1997, Guess Jeans reinstated 20 workers who said they were fired for organizing after the NLRB got involved. The company says it never intended to intervene in labor activities. 

Since it was founded in 2017, the Marciano Art Foundation has played host to works by boldfaced art-world names including Ai Weiwei, Glenn Ligon, Olafur Eliiasson and Ed Ruscha.