Weinberg Reflects on Art and the Addison

The Phillipian caught up with Adam Weinberg during his last few days as Director of the Addison Gallery of American Art. Mr. Weinberg is leaving the Addison to become Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Sitting in his Addison office, an art buff’s ideal work space (red leather couch, wall of bookshelves, original Jackson Pollock), Mr. Weinberg answered a few questions about American art and his upcoming transition. Phillipian: What drew you to the genre of American art? Weinberg: I always loved art. I grew up around New York and I loved the energy of the Whitney and its commitment to living artists. Art isn’t something that’s dead and gone but is alive and well today in this country. Phillipian: What is the difference between the New York and Andover art communities? Weinberg: The Whitney’s audience is a lot bigger and an inner city, urban population. The museum’s primary target is the art world. At the Addison, the first priority is students and faculty and then the region. The size of the two museums reflect that difference. The Addison has about 20 staff members and the Whitney employs 200. Phillipian: The Whitney and the Addison are both museums of American art. What is different about their collections? Weinberg: The Addison has American art from the 18th century to the present but the Whitney only displays 20th century work. The Whitney emphasizes contemporary artists while the Addison strives to provide some contextual history for modern art. Both museums work to make American art more accessible to a larger number of people. In both jobs, one has to be bit of a missionary. Phillipian: What were your favorite exhibits at the Addison during your tenure? Weinberg: I think the Sight Lines exhibition was exciting, a bit controversial, but we had a lot of fun and hundreds of students were involved with the artists and the community. The collaboration was incredibly satisfying. I also really liked On Paper, the exhibition of the finest drawings in the Addison’s collection. The Trisha Brown exhibit was great because students got involved with dance and performance and the gallery. There were collaborations all over campus and in lots of departments. Phillipian: Is there a particular piece of art at the Addison you will miss? Weinberg: There are a ton of pieces that I love. I will especially miss The Portrait of Professor Henry A. Rowland by Thomas Eakins, a landscape by Asher B. Durand, Winslow Homer’s The West Wind and of course, the Jackson Pollock in my office. I will mostly miss the 19th century work because we don’t have any at the Whitney. But there I’ll find plenty of 20th century works to love. Phillipian: The Addison is considering an expansion project and the Whitney recently tabled one. How will both institutions deal with the issue of growth? Weinberg: The Whitney didn’t decide against expansion; they just voted against a particular project. Growth is not something the Whitney will focus on in the next few years, but undoubtedly we will think about building again in the future. The Addison will go back to talking about expansion as soon as a new director gets settled in. The need to expand is really tremendous since we have been the same size for 75 years even thought the Addison’s collection has grown from 400 works of art to 13,000 and the staff has gone from one and a half people to 20. Phillipian: What have you learned working with PA students that will help you improve the Whitney’s student curator program? Weinberg: There are always people who are curious about contemporary art, but you have to meet them half way. For some people, it is still a mystery and that’s okay too. What I love about Andover is the focus on learning and the desire to explore new things. It’s important to be passionate and I hope I can bring those lessons with me to the Whitney.