By PETRA MASON, JUL. 2017
Franklin Sirmans is a rare breed. In the art world, or any world, one seldom meets a genuinely intelligent and humble human being. As a curator, writer and editor, with a string of impressive museum titles, most recently as department head and curator of contemporary art at the prestigious Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Sirmans gives the impression that even though he's at the helm he never gave up the fun part. Somehow between the fund-raising and the all the meetings, he still manages to find time to curate. Most recently he curated a major presentation of artist Toba Khedoori's quietly delicate, hand-detailed mixed media paintings organized in collaboration with his former crew at LACMA. "Working with" is something Franklin is comfortable doing and highly capable of – be it synching art talks with connections from previous museum incarnations to galvanizing curatorial fellowships for students of underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.
Franklin has many champions, friends, fans and social media followers, among them Rosie Gordon-Wallace, founder and curator of Miami's Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator, now celebrating it's 20th year of energetic artistic engagement with (mostly) the mainland and the Caribbean islands.
With extensive experience as a docent at Pérez Art Museum Miami starting under the leadership of Susan Delehanty, the director of the then Miami Art Museum, Rosie is the past president of the Docent Association at PAMM and has served under the leadership of previous directors Terence Riley and Thom Collins and presently volunteers under the leadership of Franklin Sirmans (since he began at PAMM in 2015).
In her delightfully Jamaican lilt, Rosie tells me: "I simply love the direction and commitment the museum has taken to serve an international community which includes the Caribbean community. To program contemporary art from the PAMM collection, while being nimble and thoughtful with on-site projects and deep focus on the lives of contemporary artists. The challenge our director has is staying relevant to the needs of this complex and diverse community while curatorially pushing the boundaries of the global tales. He has landed in an institution gifted with the largest Cuban cultural gift ever made in the USA. He will broaden [our] gift base by attracting the African-American wealth and he most certainly is a magnet for the Gen X deep pockets and the Hip Hop billionaires. New visual Black Director, New Collection and New Money, equals a recipe for success. PAMM is a nautical cultural avatar, architecturally beautiful and culturally relevant to the citizens whose bond makes us all owners."
Located slap bang in the constellation of Downtown Miami's waterfront Museum Park, PAMM's Hertzog & De Meuron designed building considers Biscayne Bay's elevated Stiltsville an inspiration and is arguably the jewel in the crown of Miami's Arts and Entertainment District. Neighbors includes the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, YoungArts and now the new Frost Science. Directly across the very busy Biscayne Boulevard is architect Zaha Hadid's high-rise residential building "One Thousand Museum," a work in progress.
Miami winters are balmy, sparkly, gaudy affairs – the time of year when even the fruit and flowers show off tropical colors, shapes and sizes. New York's art world tends to make it to Miami for Art Basel in December, but if you're in town in February, Pérez Art Museum Miami hosts the Annual Reception for the PAMM Fund for African American Art, and in April it's their largest annual fundraiser, the Art of the Party. No matter what time of year, there are a dizzying amount of events happening at PAMM. This year's Art of the Party presented by Valentino, honored American original Lorna Simpson, starred several hosts from the world of R & B and Hip Hop royalty, and included, as always, a warm, thoughtful welcome from director Franklin Sirmans. WM
Cultural historian and publisher. Beefcake 100% Rare, All Natural is her first Universe title, Bettie Page Queen of Curves and Bunny Yeager's Darkroom are her Rizzoli titles. Mason edited Fall 2015 Skira/Rizzoli's Imperfect Utopia.