Zoe Whitley completed a BA in Art History with a minor in French, graduating from Swarthmore College in Philadelphia in 2001. She then went on to graduate with a Masters in History of Design from the Royal College of Art in London in 2003 with a focus on Black representation in fashion magazines.
Whitley’s curating career began at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, where she worked in the Prints Section as an Assistant Curator between 2003 and 2005, and then as Curator for 8 years until 2013. After her experience at the V&A, Whitley moved to the Tate where she held dual roles between 2013 and 2015: Curator in International Art (Tate Modern) and Curator of Contemporary British Art (Tate Britain). After April 2017, her curatorial work centered on the Tate Modern’s collection and was focused on international art; notable exhibition work there includes ‘Soul of a Nation’, co-curated with Mark Godfrey in 2017. In 2019 she curated the work of Cathy Wilkes for the British Pavillion in the 58th Venice Biennale, and in the same year, was appointed Senior Curator at Hayward Gallery. In 2020 she was appointed as Director of Chisenhale Gallery.
In addition to commissioning artwork, organising exhibitions, giving talks and staging public creative events, Whitley has lectured internationally on visual culture. She was awarded a prestigious fellowship by the Center for Curatorial Leadership in 2008 and took part in the University of Sussex’s exchange fellowship with the V&A, teaching art history at BA and MA level. She also led talks and designed studio visits as part of her role as Associate Lecturer at the Institut d’Etudes Superieures des Arts in Paris, France from 2011-2013.
Whitley has pursued doctoral research, with a focus on curating the Black diaspora, at the University of Lancashire. She took part in a two day conference called ‘Now & Then, Here & There: Black Artists and Modernism‘ in 2016 produced by Black Artists and Modernism (BAM) in association with Iniva, which addressed the connections and points of contention between Black British artists’ practice and their artworks’ relationship to Modernism.
Whitley lives and works in London.