Seven weeks into Franklin Sirmans’s new job as the director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (Pamm), the institution has jointly bought a six-hour video by the Canadian artist Stan Douglas with Sirmans’s former employer, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma).
Luanda-Kinshasa (2013) depicts a band of jazz musicians improvising inside a re-creation of New York’s Columbia 30th Street Studio, where Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan once recorded. “You can see the colours of the 1970s in their dress and their make-up, and you get the feel of what this studio might have looked like,” Sirmans says. The museum is due to include the video in a planned reinstallation of its collection.
Playing catch-up Michael Govan, the director of Lacma, calls Douglas “one of the most significant artists working today”. Viveca Paulin-Ferrell, the chair of Lacma’s contemporary friends group, says that the group is “ecstatic” to acquire the work with Pamm’s collectors’ council “in honour” of Sirmans. This is the first work by Douglas to enter Lacma’s collection; Pamm has one other work by the artist, a photograph from 2002. The video Luanda-Kinshasa was first shown at David Zwirner gallery (K19) in 2014.
Growing Pamm’s collection is one of Sirmans’s top priorities. The museum did not begin collecting until 1996 and must play catch-up at a time when art has never been more expensive. Video—still relatively affordable and easy to share between institutions—“is definitely an area we want to strengthen”, Sirmans says.
“It begins at home”
Meanwhile, Sirmans must also build up the museum’s endowment, which is around $20m. Asked how he plans to reach the institution’s ambitious $70m unofficial goal, he points to the museum’s board. “I think it begins at home. We can show people that the museum is worth their investment,” he says. He also plans to take advantage of Pamm’s international audience. “I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are here from out of town and who believe in the museum’s mission and direction, and have offered their support,” he says.
The director’s cut When Franklin Sirmans took over as director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (Pamm) in October, he had to get acquainted with not only the museum’s staff, but also its 1,800-strong collection. “I’ve been looking at the database since before I got here and then going into storage,” Sirmans says. “Selfishly, I’m also trying to find something for my office.” We asked the new director to sel ect a few highlights and happy discoveries from the museum’s stores.
La Chevelure (1945)
Gift of Jorge Pérez
“It’s not the most rare example and it is not the Lam of everyone’s expectations. But this is an absolute game-changer—a build-a-room-around-it piece. It is a study in how to make a picture using gradations of white, but it also has Lam’s trademark imagery: creatures that are half-human, half-animal. This painting represents a larger opportunity to think about the connections between the north and the south, and our proximity to the Caribbean.”
Museum purchase with funds provided by Pamm’s collectors’ council
“This collage is made with cigarette papers, so it speaks to abstraction in a way that is not entirely abstract. It also references trade histories. It’s an interesting work by an artist who is perhaps not as well-known as she should be.”
Untitled (Wilted Lilies), 2001
Museum purchase with funds from the New Work series and Suzanne Delehanty in honour of Mimi and Bud Floback
“I can’t help but think of someone like Naomi Fisher when I think of Miami. Through the gallery she runs with fellow artist Hernan Bas, she has been a real advocate for other artists here. I think she should be better known. This work is from a series of early photographs: colourful, crazy, juicy scenes of her interacting with the local vegetation. Growing up in the 1980s, the overriding pop-cultural perception of the city was Miami Vice. But she is looking at the natural environment, not the artificial. It prompts us to ask: ‘How do we define this place?’”
For Those in Peril on the Sea (2011)
Museum purchase from the Helena Rubinstein Philanthropic Fund at the Miami Foundation
“I saw this work in the inaugural installation of Pamm’s new building. I had been working with Hew Locke for Prospect New Orleans [which Sirmans organised in 2014] and this reinforced why. When you encounter this installation of model boats hanging from the ceiling, your backdrop is not just the city, but also the whole bay. The cruise ships come back here to turn around. Our location is so much a part of the experience of visiting this museum, and this work reiterates that.”