Art & Culture

Adrienne Edwards Appointed Senior Curator and Associate Director of Curatorial Programs at Whitney Museum, Expanding Her Leadership Role

THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART in New York announced today the promotion of Adrienne Edwards to the position of Engell Speyer Family Senior Curator and Associate Director of Curatorial Programs.

Edwards joined the Whitney in 2018 as curator of performance and was named director of curatorial affairs in 2021. She is currently organizing “Edges of Ailey,” the first large-scale museum exhibition to explore the life and work of legendary choreographer Alvin Ailey (1931-1989). The show opens in September.

In addition to curating exhibitions, Edwards has been heading up a major research and collecting initiative. Her latest promotion to upper-level management is effective Feb. 26. Reporting to Whitney Museum Director Scott Rothkopf, her expanded leadership role includes advising on the museum’s artistic program, Independent Study Program, and overarching strategic plan.


Adrienne Edwards; Photo By Bryan Derballa


“Adrienne is recognized around the world as one of the most visionary curators and thinkers of our time. Each of her shows forges an innovative new model of what an exhibition can be, particularly with regard to how performance exists in museums,” Rothkopf said in a statement. “As I look to the Whitney’s future, I am thrilled that Adrienne’s scholarship and instincts for new talent will help define our artistic program while she also partners with Gregg Bordowitz on the next chapter of the ISP as an incubator of interdisciplinary inquiry.”

Edwards is a curator, scholar, and writer. Prior to the Whitney, she served as curator at Performa in New York, where for the better part of a decade (2010-18) she organized groundbreaking live programming, film screenings, and symposiums, and commissioned innovative works by artists from around the world. She was also curator-at-large at the Walker Art Center (2016-18), and as an independent curator organized “Blackness in Abstraction” at Pace Gallery in New York (2016). Edwards earned a Ph.D., in performance studies from New York University. She has taught art history and visual studies at NYU and The New School, and lectured and published widely.

“Adrienne is recognized around the world as one of the most visionary curators and thinkers of our time. Each of her shows forges an innovative new model of what an exhibition can be, particularly with regard to how performance exists in museums.”
— Whitney Museum Director Scott Rothkopf

At the Whitney, Edwards oversees the museum’s performance program, which she has expanded and taken in new directions. During her six-year tenure, her curatorial projects have included “Jason Moran” (2018-20), the first solo museum show of Jason Moran, the jazz pianist, composer, and performance artist. The touring exhibition originated at the Walker Art Center, traveled to ICA Boston and Wexner Center for the Arts, and concluded at the Whitney.

She also curated “Moved By the Motion: Sudden Rise” (2019), a performance series based on text by Wu Tsang, boychild, and Fred Moten; “The Story I Tell Myself” (2021), the first solo museum exhibition of Dave McKenzie; and a 20-year survey of My Barbarian, the artist collective of Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon, and Alexandro Segade (2021-22). Edwards was also part of the team that collaborated with David Hammons on “Day’s End” (2014-21), the permanent public monument that stands adjacent to the museum at the edge of the Hudson River.

In 2022, Edwards served as president of the International Jury of the 59th Venice Biennale and, also that year, co-curated the “Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Kept.” This fall, she will present “Edges of Ailey” (Sept. 25-February 2025). The exhibition and accompanying catalog consider the life and enduring legacy of Ailey, a transformative figure who established his dance company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, in 1958.

Going forward, Edwards said she is “exhilarated” about the scope of her new responsibilities, being instrumental in the Whitney’s artistic program and larger institutional vision.

“I am exhilarated by the possibilities this expanded role offers in support of my work across artistic mediums, with artists deeply committed to rigor and experimentation, and in the histories and fields of study so often overlooked because they defy classification,” Edwards said in a statement.

“Since my arrival to the Whitney now nearly six years ago, the boundary-pushing exhibitions, commissions, and publications I have realized have been generously and consistently supported and championed by the Museum. The chance to be a part of the leadership team under Scott’s new directorship is a thrilling opportunity to imagine and manifest the possibilities of the Whitney’s future. I very much look forward to partnering with the visionary artist and director Gregg Bordowitz to plot the future of the storied Independent Study Program, particularly at this singular juncture in its history, having new leadership and a newly dedicated building at the Lichtenstein Studio.” CT


Adrienne Edwards edited the exhibition catalog “Jason Moran,” co-edited the exhibition catalogs “My Barbarian” and “Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Kept,” and co-authored the fully illustrated volume “Carrie Mae Weems: Kitchen Table Series” with Sarah Elizabeth Lewis. Edwards has also contributed to numerous other publications, including “Ellen Gallagher: Accidental Records,” “Adam Pendleton: Black Dada Reader,” and “Adam Pendleton” (2020) and “Wangechi Mutu” (2023), both part of the Phaidon Contemporary Artists Series. “member: Pope.L, 1978–2001” accompanied the Museum of Modern Art show. “Rodney McMillian: History is Present Tense” and Ralph Lemon: Modern Dance,” are critical volumes on the practice of each artist. In addition, “Blackness in Abstraction” documents the group exhibition Edwards organized at Pace Gallery in New York.


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