Franklin Sirmans

Franklin Sirmans, Director, Pérez Art Museum Miami, USA

Titled The 21st Century Art Museum: Is Context Everything? the CIMAM 2019 Annual Conference took place 15-17 November in Sydney hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

Day 2: Saturday 16 November
The Future of Collections


A View from the Center of the Americas: Re-Envisioning Miami’s Art Museum

Based at the crossroads of the Americas—between Central and North America with explicit cultural ties to South America—Miami’s Art Museum was founded in 1984, opening six months after Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s international art happening and spectacle Surrounded Islands (1983). With still and moving images Sirmans will illustrate this fascinating history. This is the story of a museum representing a city’s desire to define itself as the face of a new “cultured” Miami in the wake of events of the early 1980s such as: the Mariel Boatlift (1980); Miami Race Riots (1980); Time Magazine’s “Paradise Lost” cover about the city (1981) and the scourge of drugs and violence perpetrated by Cocaine Cowboys that led to the TV debut of Miami Vice (1984). This unique backdrop has played and continues to play a key role in how we shape our strategic plan, mission and vision in the 21st Century.

Today, with a lead role in the international discussion on diversity in collections, exhibitions and audiences, Perez Art Museum Miami highlights its relationship to the city and county’s diverse and dynamic community. Making the arts of Latin America and the Caribbean a focal point, while looking toward the African diaspora, PAMM is a unique voice in today’s discussion of art museums. Additionally, as a museum with a short history, PAMM utilizes unique methods to create new audiences for modern and contemporary art.


Franklin Sirmans has been the Director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) since fall 2015. Since coming to PAMM, he has overseen the acquisition of more than a thousand works of art by donation or purchase. At PAMM, Sirmans has pursued his vision of PAMM as “the people’s museum,” representing a Miami lens, by strengthening existing affiliate groups such as the PAMM Fund for African American Art, the International Women’s Committee and creating the Latin American and Latinx Art Fund.
Sirmans has organized Toba Khedoori (2017) and he was co-curator of The World’s Game: Futbol and Contemporary Art (2018). Prior to his appointment he was the Department Head and Curator of Contemporary Art at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) from 2010 until 2015. At LACMA, Sirmans organized Toba Khedoori; Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada; Variations: Conversations in and around Abstract Painting; Fútbol: The Beautiful Game; and Ends and Exits: Contemporary Art from the Collections of LACMA and The Broad Art Foundation.
From 2006 to 2010 he was Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Menil Collection in Houston where he organized several exhibitions including NeoHooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith; Maurizio Cattelan: Is Their Life Before Death?; and Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster, 1964–1966. From 2005 to 2006 Sirmans was a curatorial advisory committee member at MoMA/PS1. He was the Artistic Director of Prospect.3, New Orleans from 2012 until 2014. He won the 2007 David C. Driskell Prize, administered by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.