Drew Sawyer is an art historian and a curator, who holds the title of the Phillip Leonian and Edith Rosenbaum Leonian Curator at the Brooklyn Museum. He has previously held curatorial positions at the Museum of Modern Art and the Columbus Museum of Art, where he co-founded the Center for Art and Social Engagement through a major grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. He received a 2020 Award for Excellence from the Association of Art Museum Curators.
Sawyer holds a Ph.D. in Art History and Archaeology from Columbia University. His doctoral dissertation is a critical examination of the politics of institutions, labor, and authorship in documentary practices from the early 1930s to the early 1970s, focusing on the work of Walker Evans and the problem of “documentary style.” His writings and curatorial projects have focused on experimental documentary practices as well as the intersection of art and social movements. He is a regular contributor to scholarly volumes, exhibition catalogues, journals, and magazines, including Aperture, Artforum, Document, Mousse, and OSMOS.
His exhibitions accompanied by catalogues include Art after Stonewall, 1969-1989 (2019); I Too Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100 (2018); Red Horizon: Contemporary Art and Photography in the USSR and Russia, 1960-2010 (2017); Golden State (2017); The Sun Placed in the Abyss (2016), and 'Social Forces Visualized': Photography and Scientific Charity, 1900-1920 (2011). Other exhibitions include John Edmonds: A Sidelong Glance (2020); Garry Winogrand: Color (2019); Liz Johnson Artur: Dusha (2019); Isaac Julien: Looking for Langston (2018); Family Pictures (2018); Kojo Kamau (2017); Allan Sekula: Aerospace Folktales and Other Stories (2017); Gathered: Snapshots from the Peter J. Cohen Collection and Works by Carmen Winant and Luke Stettner (2016); and Lucy Raven: Low Relief (2016). He has also worked on exhibitions that explored the work of Bill Brandt, Horacio Coppola, Walker Evans, Robert Heinecken, Zoe Leonard, Grete Stern and more.
Sawyer has taught at Columbia University and Image Text Ithaca MFA Program. He has recently organized and participated in talks with artists Khalik Allah, Basma Alsharif, John Divola, John Edmonds, David Horvitz, Liz Johnson Artur, Mary Lucier, Mark McKnight, Lisa Oppenheim, Elle Perez, Karol Radziszewski, Lucy Raven, Cameron Rowland, and AL Steiner. In 2017, he co-organized with Sarah Miller a two day symposium, “Reinventing Documentary Photography in the 1970s," which included contributions by Katherine Bussard, David Campany, Heather Diack, Nicholas Frobes-Cross, David Hartt, Solveig Nelson, Jorge Ribalta, Robert Slifkin, and Siona Wilson.