Drew Sawyer, a curator at the Brooklyn Museum, has been appointed the Whitney Museum’s Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography starting this July.
Elisabeth Sussman, the curator who had long held that post, is set to remain on the Whitney staff as she completes an exhibition focused on polymath artist Harry Smith, set to open in the fall. The museum did not specify what her role would be, however.
At the Brooklyn Museum, Sawyer’s exhibitions included a recent retrospective for Jimmy DeSana, a photographer whose sexually frank art made him a key member of the 1980s art scene before he died of AIDS-related causes in 1990. This November, Sawyer is set to open “Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines,” which the Brooklyn Museum is billing as one of the largest museum shows dedicated to zines.
Before joining the Brooklyn Museum, Sawyer had been at the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio, where he co-organized “Art after Stonewall: 1969–1989,” an ambitious survey of two pivotal decades of queer art. The show ranked on an ARTnews list of the most important exhibitions of the 2010s.
Other shows curated by Sawyer include celebrated solos for John Edmonds and Liz Johnson Artur, both at the Brooklyn Museum, which hired him in 2018.
“Drew is one of the liveliest and most penetrating minds in the field of photography and contemporary art today,” Scott Rothkopf, who will soon assume his post as director of the Whitney, said in a statement.
At the Whitney, Sawyer will spearhead the acquisition committee devoted to works of photography. With drawings and prints curator Kim Conaty, he will also facilitate the Sondra Gilman Study Center, named for the Whitney’s longest-serving trustee and home to the museum’s more than 19,000 prints, drawings, and photographs.
“I am excited to be joining the team at the Whitney at a pivotal time in the institution’s history, and I look forward to continuing their work in championing living artists and in redefining discourses in U.S. American photography and art through its renowned collection and programming,” Sawyer said in a statement.
His hire is the latest shift in the museum’s curatorial staff. In February, Marcela Guerrero was promoted from assistant curator to curator, and Jennie Goldstein was made associate curator. Rothkopf, currently senior deputy director and chief curator, was named director the following month. Similarly, Sawyer’s departure from the Brooklyn Museum is the second high-profile one this month; Eugenie Tsai, the institution’s longtime senior curator of contemporary art, announced she would step down at the end of June.