Whitney Names Its First Latino Senior Curator

In a strong indication it is taking Latino art more seriously, the Whitney Museum of American Art has named Marcela Guerrero a senior curator, a significant promotion for the museum’s first curator to specialize in work by artists from places like Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

“It shows a deeper and more intense commitment to Latinx art,” Guerrero, 42, said. “It’s groundbreaking that someone with my expertise is at this level, making sure Latinx art is part of the fabric of the museum — not a one-off exhibition here or there.”

While the Black Lives Matter movement has focused attention on Black artists and curators, those of Latino descent have also been gaining recognition. The Brazilian museum director Adriano Pedrosa was named curator of the 2024 Venice Biennale, becoming the first Latin American to organize the world’s longest-running contemporary art exhibition.

Other recent appointments include E. Carmen Ramos at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; Pilar Tompkins Rivas at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles; and Rita Gonzalez at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In addition, the Smithsonian is planning a National Museum of the American Latino for the National Mall, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation have established Latinx Artist Fellowships, awarding its first 15 fellows $50,000 each.

Guerrero, who previously served as an associate curator, is taking on some of David Breslin’s responsibilities. Breslin, who was also the director of curatorial initiatives, recently left to become curator in charge of modern and contemporary art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Since joining the Whitney six years ago, Guerrero has organized exhibitions such as the current “no existe un mundo poshuracán: Puerto Rican Art in the Wake of Hurricane Maria,” described as the first survey of Puerto Rican art at a major U.S. art museum in 50 years. She has also brought Latino artists — Laura Aguilar, Patrick Martinez, Freddy Rodríguez — into the collection and led efforts to translate wall text and catalogs into Spanish.

In her new role, which starts on Saturday, Guerrero will continue focusing on Latino artists while also working to broaden the Whitney’s engagement with Latino audiences and participating in overall strategic planning.

Guerrero, who holds a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, came to the Whitney from the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, where she helped organize the 2017 exhibition “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985.”

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Guerrero talked about the growing pains around being a curator of color in a mostly white museum. “It means asking all the departments in an institution to do things they haven’t done before, understanding what marketing to a Latinx audience means, not just doing Latinx shows,” she said. “People in the Bronx also want to know about Edward Hopper or Andy Warhol.”

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