Johanna Burton to Leave the Wexner Center for the Arts

The rising curatorial star will become director of L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

Suzanne Goldsmith
Columbus Monthly
Johanna Burton photographed in the Wexner Center for the Arts on March 4, 2019 for Columbus CEO.  (Rob Hardin / CEO)

Less than three years after arriving in Columbus to replace Sherri Geldin, who retired in 2019 after 25 years as director of the Wexner Center for the Arts, Johanna Burton is departing to serve as executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles.

In an email message sent to funders today, Abigail Wexner and Bill Lambert of the Wexner Center Foundation’s board of directors praised Burton’s record advancing the art institution’s status as “an essential cultural and educational resource for the university, the broader central Ohio community, and the art world, even in the face of a pandemic.”

“The news is bittersweet for us, but we wish Johanna all the best in her move,” the letter continued.

While the Wex’s announcement was issued today, the news of Burton’s impending arrival at MOCA began circulating in the art world on Thursday. In a statement published in ARTNews, Burton said, “MOCA’s artist-centered mission dovetails with my own commitment to creating platforms that foster artistic innovation and emphasize deep connections to audiences. By pursuing these goals and supporting the efforts of MOCA’s team, I’m looking forward to extending the museum’s legacy while strengthening bonds both within the institution and with the public.”

During her tenure at the Wex, Burton was tasked with increasing the institution’s engagement with urgent contemporary cultural issues, as well as expanding educational initiatives. “Johanna has expanded the center's education and community engagement programming; led the charge on our strategic plan; and focused on initiatives that address and advance diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and resilience through the arts,” Wexner and Lambert wrote. Last spring, she hired Kelly Kivland, former curator of New York’s Dia Art Foundation, as the Wexner’s chief curator and director of exhibitions.

Prior to arriving at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Burton served as the Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement at the New Museum in New York. Her last day in Columbus will be October 29. No plans for her replacement were announced.