David Breslin, a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art and a co-organizer this year’s Whitney Biennial, has been hired to lead the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s modern and contemporary art department. He fills a vacancy left by Sheena Wagstaff, who announced her departure earlier this year after almost a decade at the Met.
Breslin’s arrival coincides with the museum’s long-anticipated $500 million renovation of the modern and contemporary art wing, to be designed by Mexico City–based architect Frida Escobedo and projected to take at least seven years to finish. The wing will be named after Oscar Tang and Agnes Hsu-Tang, whose $125 million donation to the institution in 2021 is the largest monetary gift the museum has ever received. The Met is still raising funds for the project, which will add 80,000 square feet of exhibition space.
“The Tang Wing will allow The Met to uniquely reimagine and present the entangled histories of modern and contemporary art from around the world,” Breslin said. “Additionally, through the combined efforts of many, it will give clarity to the singular efforts of each artist presented—respecting unique commitments and positions. The Tang Wing’s great success will be in its coupling of pedagogy and serendipity, providing connections to the past and the space for imagining new futures.”
Breslin was a chief curator at the Menil Drawing Institution in Houston before joining the Whitney in 2016. Brought on as a curator and director of the collection, he was later promoted to director of curatorial initiatives. His exhibitions at the Whitney include a retrospective for David Wojnarowicz in 2018 and, alongside Adrienne Edwards, this year’s Whitney Biennial.
The appointment also follows a spate of high-profile departures at the Met. Randall Griffey, a contemporary and modern curator under Wagstaff, was named head curator of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, in May. A month later, Daniel Weiss revealed his decision to step down as the museum’s president and CEO in 2023.
In a statement, Met director Max Hollein characterized Breslin as “a proven leader and an enthusiastic collaborator with an exemplary background in collection building.”