Adam Weinberg is stepping down from New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art after two decades as its director, the New York Times reports. Scott Rothkopf, who is currently the institution’s senior deputy director and the Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, will take the reins from Weinberg on November 1. During his directorship, Weinberg shepherded the museum through its move from its longtime Upper East Side Brutalist digs to its airy, modern current home in New York’s trendy Meatpacking District. He also weathered the Covid-19 crisis, which saw the museum shutter temporarily and lay off staff, and the rise of Black Lives Matter, which led to struggles as the institution attempted to embrace diversity.
Workers also unionized at the museum during Weinberg’s tenure; the union reached a contract with management just this week. As well, Weinberg steered the museum through the tumultuous departure of board vice chair Warren Kanders spurred in part by an article in this magazine limning his connection to tear gas maker Safariland.
The Times noted that the move is not unexpected, given that Weinberg is sixty-eight and Rothkopf forty-six. The succession reflects a generational changing of the guard that is taking place across the art world, with white male curators of the baby boom generation yielding to members of Generation X or millennials, as embodied for example by forty-five-year-old Christopher Bedford’s being chosen to succeed sixty-eight-year-old Neal Benezra at the San Francisco Museum of Art or forty-one-year-old Sasha Suda’s being tapped to lead the Philadelphia Museum of Art after seventy-year-old Timothy Rub stepped down.
Characterizing Weinberg as “a once-in-a-lifetime director” and Rothkopf as “an agent of change,” Fern Kaye Tessler, president of the Whitney’s board of trustees, told the Times, “We have an opportunity to have a seamless transition.”
The Harvard-educated Rothkopf, a former Artforum senior editor, left the magazine in 2009 to become a curator at the Whitney; he rose through the ranks with several promotions in swift succession, becoming deputy director in 2018. Rothkopf is known for his close liaisons with artists and has been instrumental in diversifying the museum’s staff. Among the exhibitions he has organized at the Whitney are surveys of the work of Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, and Laura Owens.
“One of the great things about an internal succession like this is we can continue the work we’ve been doing with equity and inclusion—thinking about our community and the city,” he told the Times. “We have a tremendous curatorial team and most of them I’ve hired, so it’s not like someone who arrives and says, ‘How do I change this? How do I make this my own?’”