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Whitney Museum of American Art Announced Appointment of Meg Onli to the Role of Curator-at-Large: ‘This is Truly a Dream Job’

 

FOLLOWING THE ANNOUNCEMENT last fall that Meg Onli would co-curate the 2024 Whitney Biennial, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York has tapped the writer and curator for the position of curator-at-large, a wide-ranging and fully engaged role. The appointment was announced this morning and Onli officially started today.

The first person to be named curator-at-large in 15 years, Onli will curate exhibitions and recommend acquisitions. The museum said it will also rely on Onli to “act as an ambassador and advisor on special projects, and contribute to the intellectual life and culture of the Whitney.”

 


Meg Onli. Photo by Bryan Derballa, Courtesy Whitney Museum

 

News of Onli’s hiring was accompanied by the announcement that she will co-curate the Whitney’s forthcoming Roy Lichtenstein exhibition with artist Alex Da Corte and chief curator Scott Rothkopf, who will become director of the museum in the fall. The Lichtenstein retrospective opens in 2026.

“Meg is that rare innovative thinker who glimpses the future while respecting the past,” Rothkopf said in a statement. “I’ve already been dazzled by Meg’s thinking on the Biennial and know she has even more to contribute as the Whitney’s first Curator-at-Large in over a decade. As I prepare to become Director, I’m thrilled that Meg will officially join our outstanding curatorial team alongside newly appointed Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography, Drew Sawyer.”

“Meg is that rare innovative thinker who glimpses the future while respecting the past. I’ve already been dazzled by Meg’s thinking on the Biennial and know she has even more to contribute as the Whitney’s first Curator-at-Large in over a decade. — Chief Curator Scott Rothkopf

In September, the Whitney Museum named Onli co-curator of the 2024 Whitney Biennial, alongside Whitney curator Chrissie Iles. Previously, Onli was director and curator of the Underground Museum in Los Angeles. The Underground Museum was envisioned by late artist Noah Davis (1983-2015) who wanted to present museum-quality art in his Arlington Heights neighborhood, a Black and Latinx community.

Hired after the pandemic when the Underground Museum was still closed to the public, Onli started in December 2021. The museum reopened on Jan. 28, 2022, with a long-awaited exhibition dedicated to paintings by Noah Davis. Shortly thereafter, Onli’s tenure was cut short when artist and co-founder Karon Davis abruptly announced on March 15 that the Underground Museum was closing until further notice.

Prior to the Underground Museum, Onli was an associate curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania. At ICA, Onli staged several notable projects, including a groundbreaking three-part series of exhibitions called “Colored People Time” (2019) that explored “the banal and everyday ways in which the history of slavery and colonialism permeates the present and impacts the future” and “Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretation,” a landmark retrospective of the video and performance artist, co-curated with Erin Christovale.

AFTER GROWING UP IN LOS ANGELES, Onli received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2008) and earned a master’s degree in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. The recipient of several awards, Onli won the inaugural Figure Skating Prize, an annual award recognizing Black artists, curators, and art scholars who are advancing racial justice and equity in the arts. The prize was established by a collective co-founded by Virgil Abloh (1980-2021).

“This is truly a dream job. I have always admired the Whitney’s long-standing history of field-defining exhibitions and support for emergent artist practices.” — Meg Onli

Onli’s Whitney Museum appointment was announced along with the promotion of Laura Phipps, who has worked at the Whitney Museum since 2009. Phipps, who is being elevated from assistant curator to associate curator, organized “Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map,” a major retrospective of the Native American artist, on view through Aug. 13.

The curatorial team at the Whitney Museum also includes Adrienne Edwards, curator of performance and director of curatorial affairs, and assistant curator Rujeko Hockley. Onli said she is excited about her new role at the Museum, an institution whose programming she has long admired.

“This is truly a dream job,” Onli said in a statement. “I have always admired the Whitney’s long-standing history of field-defining exhibitions and support for emergent artist practices. I am very excited to be part of the life of the Whitney, and to collaborate and explore with the incredible team here. I am also so appreciative of the flexibility of the role, which affords me the opportunity to focus on the creative and bring new ideas and perspectives to the Museum. It is humbling to represent my hometown of Los Angeles, and its leading art scene. I look forward to being an ambassador and building bridges between emerging and overlooked voices in the art world and the Whitney.” CT

 

BOOKSHELF
Meg Onli’s publications include the exhibition catalogs “Colored People Time,” “Speech/Acts,” and “Jessica Vaughn: Our Primary Focus Is to Be Successful.” Onli also co-authored with Erin Christovale “Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretation,” the artist’s first monograph, which accompanied a major traveling retrospective. In addition, Onli is a contributor to the forthcoming volume “Nicole Eisenman: What Happened.”

 

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