Donna De Salvo, the Curatorial Powerhouse Who Shaped the Whitney Museum as We Know It, Is Moving On After 15 Years

What is she planning to do next?

Donna De Salvo at the Frieze Art Fair 2019 VIP preview in New York City. Photo: Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images.

Whitney Museum of American Art senior curator Donna De Salvo, who has been instrumental in shaping the museum’s current identity, is resigning from her post, effective July 1. She plans “to pursue other interests,” according to a statement from the museum.

De Salvo has held leadership positions at the museum for 15 years and organized some of its best-known shows, including retrospectives for Lawrence Weiner (2007-08), Roni Horn (2009-2010), and Hélio Oiticica (2017). Most recently, she curated the blockbuster exhibition “Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again,” which traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art after its run at the Whitney, and will its tour to the Art Institute of Chicago this fall.

“Donna De Salvo has played an indispensable role in helping to set the foundations for the Whitney as it now exists,” said the Whitney’s director, Adam Weinberg, in a statement. “Her contributions are reflected in the roster of exhibitions that bear the stamp of her unique take on art and culture, major works acquired under her inspired stewardship of the collection, and the artist-centric galleries of the downtown building. We will always be grateful for the extraordinary breadth of knowledge and the keen insights she has brought to this institution, and we wish her the best as she embarks on the next phase of her career.”

De Salvo first joined the museum in 2004, after working as a curator at the Dia Art Foundation, an adjunct curator at the Andy Warhol Museum, and senior curator at Tate Modern. In 2005, she co-curated “Course of Empire: Paintings by Ed Ruscha” for the US pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale. The following year, she was promoted to chief curator at the Whitney, an inaugural position she held for nearly a decade.

Donna De Salvo with Whitney director Adam Weinberg at press preview for the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Photo: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images.

Donna De Salvo with Whitney director Adam Weinberg at the press preview for the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Photo: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images.

De Salvo transitioned to her current title in 2015, when Scott Rothkopf was appointed to the chief curator role—a move that signaled the museum’s desire to attract younger audiences, many observers speculated at the time. “I wouldn’t say so much that it’s a generational change but it is about bringing that next generation into the curatorial and programmatic leadership,” Weinberg said in an interview after Rothkopf’s promotion.

“I hold a deep regard for the Whitney, which has been my home for one of the most fulfilling periods of my career,” De Salvo said in a statement. “I joined the Whitney to work with Adam Weinberg and his team, to imagine and help realize a new home for the museum, and to expand understanding of what art in the United States is and can be. It has been an enormous privilege to collaborate with extraordinary artists, trustees, and colleagues and to have overseen the curatorial direction of the Whitney during one of the most transformative periods of the institution’s history.”

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