Darlene Pérez, together with her real-estate developer husband Jorge, is a major force in Miami’s cultural scene. The couple’s name is synonymous with the city’s foremost art institution, the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)—in recognition of a $35m gift made in 2013. This was followed in 2016 with an additional $15m and 200 works of art. Last month, the Pérezes pledged another $25m to the museum, and their support extends across the region to organisations including Oolite Arts, the Fountainhead Residency, YoungArts, the Frost Art Museum at Darlene’s alma mater, Florida International University (FIU), and more.
In addition to her passion for supporting women artists—Darlene founded and chairs the international women’s committee at PAMM—she is devoted to health and wellness causes, serving on the nursing advisory board at FIU and the art and design committee at the Miami Cancer Institute. She recently discussed her latest acquisitions, favourite dinner spots and unconventional installation of a mirrored work of art.
The Art Newspaper: What was the first work you ever bought?
Darlene Pérez: Wow, that was a long time ago! The first pieces we purchased were donated to PAMM back in 2012. At the time, Latin American art was the central focus of the collection, and early works by Amelia Peláez and Wifredo Lam are most notable for me because of my Cuban heritage.
What was the most recent work you bought?
The collection grows every day! It is hard to nail down the most recent one, but I am very excited with our purchase of Shirin Neshat’s video installation, The Fury (2022). I have always been an admirer of her work—we have her photographs in the collection—but acquiring a large-scale video installation was a priority for me.
How quickly do you decide to buy a work of art?
The decision process is very swift! When a work resonates with me, I know it is meant to be, and I don’t even need to think twice about it.
What do you regret not buying when you had the chance?
Luckily, I have no regrets! Even if I miss out on certain works, many other unique opportunities arise. Lee Krasner is an artist I always wanted to have in the collection. It took some time, but I am thrilled that we now have a painting of hers from 1951. It was simply the piece for us.
What is the most unusual place you’ve installed a piece in your home?
A Michelangelo Pistoletto, Un bimbo e una bimba (2015)—one of the mirrored stainless-steel pieces—takes centre stage in our bathroom over the tub. Perhaps even more unusual is the Caroline Walker piece in the water closet.
If you could have any work from any museum in the world, what would it be?
I would have to agree with Jorge, my husband—Claude Monet’s Water Lilies are just breathtaking. No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the Musée de l’Orangerie. It is quite the experience to sit and be surrounded by these masterpieces.
What are you looking out for at Art Basel in Miami Beach this year?
I am always looking out for women artists we can support. Collecting and exhibiting art made by women is an integral component of my process, and slowly but surely we are moving the needle.
What tip would you give to someone visiting Miami for the first time?
Go visit our new exhibition, To Weave the Sky: Textile Abstractions from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection, at El Espacio 23! Also, don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. Miami is such a diverse city—there is something for everyone and certainly more to explore than only our beautiful beaches. It has become a world-class cultural destination, not only in visual and fine arts but also in performance, film and so much more.
Where do you like to eat and drink in Miami?
I love everything that Coconut Grove has to offer, from brunch at Sadelle’s and delicious drinks and food at Koko and Amal to beautiful views from Bellini or Level 6 Rooftop. We love taking our family for Cuban at Chug’s or out for great pizza at Mister O1.