By Enrique Menendez
Since Franklin Sirmans landed in Miami in 2015, he has been a driving force in connecting culture to community. His first six months as director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) saw the largest number of artwork donations in the institution’s history, and the momentum he created has only continued to build in the culture-rich city. Sirmans’s curatorial portfolio spans art spaces across the globe, including his stints at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Menil Collection in Houston. At the young PAMM, he has focused on what Miami does best: getting ahead of the trends and supporting the brightest emerging artists, as well as uplifting previously underrepresented stars. It’s Sirmans’s job to be on the cutting edge, and that means looking the part, too. Here, he gives insights on striking the perfect balance in his personal style and shares his art and culture picks for the season.
What are some art moments Miami Formula 1 visitors should fit into their schedules?
Miami is teeming with culture. Don’t come here to see art from hundreds of years ago. Come to get a taste of the moment—the here and now—and to see how artists continue to push boundaries for how humans can live on this planet. They’re questioning everyday life while making something beautiful to look at in all media—paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos, NFTs; there’s something for everyone. That said, come to PAMM, and don’t miss a walk through Wynwood, but also check out the surreal architectural styles of Opalocka. The neighborhood has one of the largest collections of Moorish Revival architecture in America, and it’s only five miles from the racetrack.
What is your go-to sneaker for walking the art fairs?
Paul Smith’s Ziggy sneakers
Do you have a favorite fashion memory from the Venice Biennale?
Without a doubt the highlight of the last Venice Biennale experience for me was seeing the great Kehinde Wiley’s “An Archaeology of Silence” exhibition at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini. Massive, colorful Baroque-style paintings and bronze sculptures bring the new to the old. Each one is a synergy of art and fashion. Not only did Wiley paint the clothing of your favorite fashion labels on the bodies of his figures, but he also made jackets, shirts, scarves, and other items adorned with images from his paintings available for sale. And, best of all, the net proceeds went directly to supporting other artists through Black Rock Sénégal, his artist-in-residence program in Dakar.
What art shows are you most looking forward to this summer?
Honestly, “Joan Didion: What She Means,” at PAMM this July. Organized by critically acclaimed writer and New Yorker contributor Hilton Als, the exhibition features approximately 50 artists including Vija Celmins, Félix González-Torres, Maren Hassinger, Jorge Pardo, and Pat Steir. Photographs by Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand, and Richard Avedon illustrate her New York years, while works by Noah Purifoy, Ed Ruscha, and Betye Saar illuminate California’s counter-culture movement. But it was in Miami in the mid-1980s that Didion found inspiration. She began visiting the city in 1985, and by 1987 she had written Miami, a foundational text for many of us trying to understand this unique place we call home.
Who are three artists on your radar?
There are so many great Miami galleries breaking new talent, but I’ll say Marcela Cantuária, Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich, and Jason Seife!
Who is on your playlist? Album, song, artist?
Album: Raven by Kelela. Song: Bonitas by Hendrix and Goyo. Artist: De La Soul.
Any book recommendations to add to our summer reading lists?
If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery shares incredible tales of growing up in Miami—it’s just unbelievably good writing; To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness by Robin Coste Lewis; Raised a Warrior: A Memoir of Soccer, Grit, and Leveling the Playing Field by Susie Petruccelli, which discusses how to make it all happen in the face of adversity—a great read for anyone just trying to win at this game called life.