Whitney Curator David Breslin Will Lead the Met’s Modern and Contemporary Art Department Ahead of a Major Expansion


One of the most watched vacancies in the New York art world has been filled.

David Breslin, who has been a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art since 2016, has been appointed the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new curator of modern and contemporary art. Breslin takes over the position from Sheena Wagstaff, who announced in May that she was leaving the museum after serving as the department’s chair for nearly 10 years.

Breslin is hired to oversee the planned 80,000-square-foot expansion of the museum’s Fifth Avenue outpost, a high-profile project named after major donors Oscar L. and HM Agnes Hsu-Tang, which carries an award of $500 million . He will work closely with Mexican architect Frida Escobedo, who was commissioned to design the wing back in March. “That will certainly be the central project,” said Met Director Max Hollein New York Times“and David will be in the midst of it.”

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In a statement, Breslin, who co-organized this year’s Whitney Biennial, said the new wing aims to “reinvent and showcase the intertwined stories of modern and contemporary art from around the world.” He told that Times he is striving to link the holdings of the department with historical collections.

The modern and contemporary department has undergone some changes in recent years. The museum planned to operate the Met Breuer while construction was underway on a $600 million grand piano designed by David Chipperfield. This project was shelved due to budget issues, reactivated in 2018 and then finally discarded in favor of Escobedo’s design. Tang and Hsu-Tang donated $125 million to the project last fall.

Moved by the Motion, EXTRACTS (2022) at the Whitney Biennial.  Photo by Ben Davis.

moved by the movement, EXCERPTS (2022) at the Whitney Biennial. Photo by Ben Davis.

In 2019, Breslin was named the Whitney’s first-ever Director of Curatorial Initiatives, working with Associate Director and Chief Curator Scott Rothkopf to develop the museum’s exhibition program and engagement. In this capacity he organized the Indigenous Artists Workshop and was a Fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership. He also co-curated David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night and Quiet as It’s Kept: The 2022 Whitney Biennial with Adrienne Edwards and helped organize An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940″. –2017.”

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Before joining Whitney, Breslin was chief curator at the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston, where he oversaw the development of the catalog raisonné for Jasper Johns’ drawings and organized Harold Ancart: There Is No There There in 2016. He also served as Associate Curator of Contemporary Projects at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

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