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PAMM Director Franklin Sirmans on acquisition of Yanira Collado work

May 22, 2020

By Franklin Sirmans

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Our mission is to be Miami’s art museum—that’s why we spent $145,000 to buy works from local galleries

Franklin Sirmans, the director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, explains the impetus behind the Collectors Council’s largest group acquisition ever

FRANKLIN SIRMANS

Like with everyone, this crisis has devastated the arts community. According to Artist Relief’s COVID-19 Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers, 64% of artists have become fully unemployed as a result of the pandemic and 81% do not have a plan to financially recover from the crisis. Some galleries and small art spaces have had to shutter their doors permanently. In 2020, artists will lose $50.6 billion.

Silver linings are hard to come by in a situation this dire, but if pressed, one might point to how the crisis has underscored the necessity of communities, and the role of museums not only as cultural repositories, but as social forums, as employers, and as engines of forward momentum in cities across the world. At the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), we have long lived by this principle. To be Miami’s art museum has long been our mission, and it is now more important than ever. That is why we’re making a new investment in Miami’s arts community. PAMM’s Collectors Council will support the local arts economy through the purchase of eight works of artfrom Miami galleries, totaling $145,000.

Pieces by Yanira Collado (Emerson Dorsch Gallery), Myrlande Constant (Central Fine), Conrad Egyir (Mindy Solomon Gallery), Viktor El-Saieh (Central Fine Gallery), Lucia Hierro (PRIMARY), Kelley Johnson (Fredric Snitzer Gallery), Eamon Oré-Girón (Nina Johnson Gallery), and Naama Tsabar (Spinello Projects) will join the museum’s permanent collection in a move that will immediately bolster the local arts economy, and will further enrich a communal resource for years to come. Formally daring and rooted in disparate cultural histories, these works encapsulate the multivalence of our community.

Furthermore, they speak to unique personalities and histories of Miami’s contemporary art galleries, the presence of which would be outsized in a city twice as large. These galleries have nurtured Miami’s art scene over the past decades, and will continue to do so moving forward, but only if they’re supported by local individuals and institutions. This is the largest number of artworks purchased by the Collectors Council at any one time since its inception 15 years ago, and we’re happy to focus an important milestone on Miami’s local gallery scene.

But a museum is much more than the art on its walls, and an art scene is much more than the galleries and artists they show. Of more importance is the audience—those Miamians young and old for whom art offers inspiration, solace, guidance, and joy. All necessary emotions during a time like this. Covid-19 has given museums across the world a simple, yet daunting challenge. How do you provide your community with art when people cannot even get in the building? Our answer is to bring some of our community-oriented programmes online.

For the past seven years, we have hosted field trip tours for over 100,000 K-12 students through the Knight Schools’ tour programme. Almost every day, the galleries were filled with schoolchildren, encountering installations by Ai Wei Wei, Hew Locke, Teresita Fernández. To continue this good work in the days of distance learning, we’ve introduced the PAMM in Your Classroom virtual tour programme. Starting in April, students have been able to work with PAMM Teaching Artists to discuss and create their own artworks, all from their home computer.

We have also created a virtual counterpart to our Local Views programme, in which local artists spotlight three to five works by Miami-based artists on display. We’re ramping up these monthly conversations to occur once a week. They are held Thursday evenings on Facebook Live and YouTube Live. That a programme designed to be hyperlocal can now be accessed from any point on earth is not just ironic, it speaks to two truths. Firstly, Covid-19 is challenging museums to reapproach everything they do. In this, there’s the opportunity to reflect upon our missions, to take stock of priorities, and to ultimately better serve our communities.

Secondly, in these days of distance learning and work from home, considerations of place and community are especially resonant. These discussions are never simple, but in Miami they are particularly complicated. As a port city at the crossroads of America, Miami is a diverse community of immigrants from across the world. Terms like here and there, home and away, local and remote take on new meaning once you set foot in the 305. And like so much else, that meaning is understood most clearly through our art, and artists. The work born out of this distinct ecosystem of perspectives and cultures is vital to the survival of the city, and will serve as a guiding light for us all, whether seen on a gallery wall, or, for now at least, a computer screen.

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