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Whitney Museum Chooses Curators for Its Next Biennial


The Whitney Museum of American Art has again reached within its ranks to select a pair of curators to steward its Biennial exhibition in 2021, which aims to reflect the current social, political and cultural moment through art.

The curators, announced on Monday, are both relatively recent additions to the museum’s staff. David Breslin, who this month assumes his role as curator and director of curatorial initiatives, joined the Whitney in 2016 as curator and director of the collection. He previously worked at the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston and at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass.

Adrienne Edwards in 2018 became the Whitney’s curator of performance. Before that, she served for eight years as curator of Performa and for two years as curator at large for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

“They’re both serious art historians and yet very involved with our moment,” said Scott Rothkopf, the Whitney’s senior deputy director and chief curator. “They’re sort of secretly known and loved by so many artists and colleagues, and I look forward to seeing them work under the Biennial’s larger spotlight.”

The two curators — who have yet to determine a theme for their exhibition — are taking their positions at a time when the Biennial has been in the cross hairs. Activists commandeered the Whitney lobby to protest the museum’s trustee Warren B. Kanders, whose company, Safariland, sells tear gas and military supplies like bulletproof vests, bomb-defusing robots and gun holsters. The protests had started after reports that Safariland’s tear-gas grenades had been used against migrants at the United States-Mexico border and elsewhere.

Eight artists in the 2019 Biennial, which recently closed, had threatened to remove their work from the show over Mr. Kanders, who ultimately resigned from the board in July.

The Biennial has a history of generating controversy. In the 2017 exhibition, for example, the artist Dana Schutz, who is white, faced protests for painting the lynched teenager Emmett Till — based on photographs of the young black victim.

Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s director, said the two curators will make a great team. They will be “working both intellectually and intuitively to fashion an exhibition that captures the complexities, contradictions, frustrations and hopes of the current generation of artists,” he said.

Mr. Breslin and Ms. Edwards said in a statement: “We’re thrilled to take this journey together and couldn’t imagine a better collaboration. We’re looking forward, in the lead up to 2021, to engaging with the prescient artists and thinkers who will inform and inspire this exhibition.”


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