Julie Mehretu Becomes Third Artist Ever to Join Whitney Board

The artist Julie Mehretu has been appointed to the board of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the museum announced Tuesday, making her the third artist trustee in the Whitney’s history and one of seven new members to join the board over the last year.

Mehretu joins the artist Fred Wilson on the board; Chuck Close, who died in August, was the first artist ever to serve as a trustee.

The museum recently presented the most comprehensive survey to date of Mehretu’s career, which took over the entire fifth floor (now occupied by the work of Jasper Johns). Mehretu, who is Black, joins the board at a time when cultural institutions all over the country are making a concerted effort to diversify their leadership, staffs and programming.

In addition, the Whitney has been healing from a rift with artists over the business interests of the museum’s former vice chairman, Warren B. Kanders. Kanders was forced to resign in 2019 after months of protests over his company’s sale of tear gas, culminating in the withdrawal of eight artists from the prestigious Whitney Biennial exhibition. (Kanders has since left the tear gas business.)

“The Whitney’s founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, believed that artists were essential to defining, challenging and expanding culture and that the museum should be a site where artists and audiences engaged openly with untested ideas,” Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s director, said in a statement. “Today, more than 90 years later, this history informs who we are and how we serve our public, and our trustees, along with our staff, help to ensure that we redouble our commitment to American art and artists.”

The other new trustees are Eric L. Motley, who in March became deputy director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; Paul Arnhold, a real estate executive and glassblowing artist; Katja Goldman, a collector and chef; Michael E. Kassan, the founder, chairman and chief executive of MediaLink, a consulting firm; Claudia Laviada, a collector; and Jen Rubio, the co-founder and chief executive of Away, a luggage and travel accessory company.