Addison Director Weinberg to Take Charge at Whitney

Adam Weinberg, director of the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy, has spent his career putting the spotlight on art, but this summer he found himself in the limelight. In early August, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City selected Mr. Weinberg as its next director and thus ended what The New York Times called “one of the art world’s most high-profile searches.” After serving for nearly five years at the helm of the Addison, a role which he called, “a director’s dream job,” Mr. Weinberg said he is leaving Andover on friendly terms. “Both museums are part of a larger mission to encourage American art,” he said. “I am not leaving the family, just moving to another branch.” Under Mr. Weinberg’s direction, the Addison grew tremendously, receiving large donations from Sol LeWitt and print artist Ken Tyler, among others. Nevertheless, the Gallery is still looking for additional space, and it recently completed a feasibility study for a $25 million addition. However, any discussions about growth will be put on hold until a new director is chosen. “I would hope that the expansion wouldn’t be slowed down more than a couple of years,” Mr. Weinberg said. “The needs of the Addison are pressing because it has grown so much so fast.” The Addison owns 14,000 works but can display only several hundred at a time. Because storage space is so crowded, students and teachers are no longer able to access the museum’s archives. Mr. Weinberg, who received a degree in art history from Brandeis University and a Master of Fine Arts from the State University of New York at Buffalo, is leaving the well-endowed and well-respected Addison for a serious challenge at the Whitney Museum. The Whitney’s previous director, Maxwell Anderson, left abruptly in May after a dispute with the museum’s board over a tabled $200 million expansion project. Staff turnover at the museum has been high, and with complaints rampant, the Whitney has struggled to find its niche in the saturated and competitive New York art scene. But critics agree that if anyone can rescue the Whitney, it is Adam Weinberg, who spent nine years at the museum as director of the Whitney’s Equitable Center branch and as a senior curator, before coming to Andover. “We were looking for someone who understood the key mission of the Whitney: to champion American art and living artists,” Leonard Lauder, chairman of the museum’s board and member of the search committee told The Times. “We also wanted someone who would be great support to our curators. Adam fits the bill on both accounts.” During his previous tenure at the Whitney, Mr. Weinberg put together high-profile shows, oversaw the acquisitions and loan process, and planned international exhibitions. While at the Addison, he orchestrated a joint exhibit with the Whitney. The two museums, which were founded within months of each other under the direction of close friends, often share works of art—a tradition Mr. Weinberg plans to encourage. Despite the prominence surrounding Mr. Weinberg’s new position, he is not letting his newfound celebrity go to his head. “I am aware that people know what I am doing now, but I am not doing it for the renown or anything,” Mr. Weinberg said. “I have a job to do and I do it because I love it. It is still all about the art and not about me. I’m just here to help make things happen for the institution.” Mr. Weinberg has an ambitious list of changes he would like to make to the Whitney, with the general goals of making the museum “more connected, more relevant, more essential to the arts community and to the city.” He also wants to strengthen the museum’s ties with Columbia University and improve the Whitney’s famed Independent Study program, which trains about 15 student curators each year. But that’s not enough for Mr. Weinberg. “I want to do more publications and shows and send them on tour,” he told The Boston Globe. “The idea is for the Whitney to help shape the dialogue about what American art is and will be.” No matter how New York treats Mr. Weinberg, the Addison will remember him fondly. “He encouraged us as an institution to look at the long term and to be ambitious in our programs, acquisitions, and outreach,” Addison Associate Director Susan Faxon said. “He is going to the Whitney but not leaving the Addison. He will always be interested in what happens here at the Addison and will always be willing to give us his advice and his support.” The Addison Gallery will begin their search for a new director in the fall, and Ms. Faxon will act as Interim Director until a replacement is hired. “The Addison is well known and respected throughout the art world,” she said. “We will conduct a national search, and I anticipate a large number of interested applicants.” Meanwhile, Ms. Faxon said there would be no changes to the Addison’s schedule. “One thing that has been wonderful about working with Adam is that we have set a plan, a roadmap of exhibitions well into the future,” she said. “We have events planned into 2006 that will go forward even though he won’t be here. We won’t change things because we don’t need to.”