Johanna Burton, the Keith Haring director and curator of education and public engagement of the New Museum in New York, has been appointed as the new director of the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. She will take the reins at the Wexner in March of next year, after Sherri Geldin retires as director of the museum—a position she has held for the past 25 years.
“The Wexner Center is one of this country’s most venerable contemporary art institutions, noted for its trailblazing spirit, dedication to pushing boundaries, and engagement with leading and emerging artists alike to create new work,” Burton said in a statement. “I am excited to join the board and staff in thinking about how we best steward this incredible legacy and momentum to continue to create programs, exhibitions, publications, and communities of creatives that break ground and investigate the questions and challenges of our time.”
Burton has held her position at the New Museum since 2013. Since then, she has curated various exhibitions for the museum, including 2017’s “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon,” a far-reaching group show that featured artists tackling today’s fractious notions of gender, sexuality, and queerness. She has also served as editor of the museum’s “Critical Anthologies in Art and Culture” books series, and has overseen two publications for it—Public Servants: Art and the Crisis of the Common Good (2016) and Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility (which she co-edited with the artist Tourmaline, formally known as Reina Gossett, in 2018).
In a statement, Lisa Phillips, director of the New Museum, said that Burton “is an exceptionally gifted curator, scholar, and thinker” and added that she “set the bar high with intelligence, grace, and integrity, and she will do great things at the Wexner.” A replacement for Burton at the New Museum was not immediately named.
Prior to joining the New Museum, Burton worked on “Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology,” a 2012 exhibition at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles that surveyed artists’ uses to appropriation during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, and on a 2011 Sherrie Levine mid-career survey at the Whitney Museum.
Currently a 2019 fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership in New York, Burton has also served as director of Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies and associate director and senior faculty member of the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program. Her writings have appeared in Artforum, October, Texte Zur Kunst, and other publications.
Abigail Wexner, the co-chair of the selection committee that picked Burton to head up the museum, said, “Johanna is the perfect leader—intelligent, inquisitive, collaborative, and ambitious. We couldn’t be more thrilled that she will guide the arts center into the future, while building on the superb work of Sherri Geldin and the talented staff.”
Burton is the second high-profile leader to depart a New York art institution in the past month. Two weeks ago, the Walker Art Center announced that it had selected Mary Ceruti, the director of SculptureCenter, as its new director.