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Johanna Burton is Executive Director of the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, where, since joining the institution in 2019, she has concentrated on developing and expanding initiatives actively engaged with the most pressing cultural issues of our times—from equity and accessibility to health and democracy—in addition to overseeing an expansion of the center’s education, outreach, and public programs.
Burton’s commitment to setting art in dialogue with larger society was previously realized at the New Museum in New York. During her tenure as Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement at that institution between 2013 and 2019, she organized pivotal and acclaimed exhibitions and artistic residencies such as Trigger: Gender as a Tool and Weapon (2017), Simone Leigh: The Waiting Room (2016), and Jeffrey Gibson: The Anthropophagic Effect (2019), among many others. Burton also reconceived and edited the New Museum’s renowned book series Critical Anthologies in Art and Culture to produce new groundbreaking volumes including Saturation: Race, Art, and the Circulation of Value (2020), Trap/Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility (2017), Public Servants: Art and the Crisis of the Common Good (2016) and Mass Effect: Art and the Internet in the Twenty-First Century (2015).
As a curator, Burton has also organized major exhibitions of artists including Sherrie Levine (Whitney Museum of American Art, 2011) and Haim Steinbach (Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, 2013), as well as historical surveys such as Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology (Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2014), a benchmark overview of the intersections between appropriation and institutional critique in art during the past half century.
The scholarship underlying such endeavors extends to Burton’s extensive publications, which include an October Files volume on Cindy Sherman (MIT, 2006), in addition to major catalogue essays for Wade Guyton: Zwei Dekaden (Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2020), Rachel Harrison: Life Hack (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2019), Rosemarie Trockel: Primate (Kunsthaus Bregenz, 2015), This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 2012), Cy Twombly: States of Mind (MUMOK, Vienna, 2009), Open Systems (Tate Modern, London, 2005), and other institutional exhibitions.
Burton’s past posts also include Director of the Graduate Program at Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies (CCS) and Associate Director & Senior Faculty Member at the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program (ISP). She holds an M.A. in Art History from Princeton University (Ph.D., ABD), an M.Phil from New York University in Performance Studies, and an M.A. in Art History, Criticism, and Theory from the State University of New York, Stonybrook. She completed her undergraduate work in Art History at the University of Nevada, Reno. Burton was a Helena Rubinstein Critical Studies Fellow at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program (ISP) from 2000–2001, and a Center for Curatorial Leadership (CCL) Fellow in 2019.