Five Questions with Franklin Sirmans

February 9 marks Pérez Art Museum Miami's sixth year celebrating its Fund for African American Art, an initiative that has worked to expand the presence of African American artists in the museum's permanent collection. We sat down with PAMM Director Franklin Sirmans to talk about this moment in the museum's timeline, as well as that of the community's.

Simone Sutnick

Franklin Sirmans with Arturo Herrera's When Alone Again III (2001). Photo by Angel Valentin, courtesy of Pérez Art Museum Miami.

This is the Fund for African American Art’s sixth iteration. In what ways have you seen this endeavor grow or change since its inception? We’ve been fortunate from the beginning to have the support of Jorge Pérez and Alberto Ibargüen at the Knight Foundation. We have acquired incredible works of art and we keep acquiring. With two challenge grants—we are now on our third—we brought the Fund back to its original $1 million and have since created an endowment to continue making acquisitions in this field “forever.”

What are some of the artworks you are most excited about the museum recently acquiring? Ebony G. Patterson is an artist I have worked with in the past, in New Orleans, and now I am excited that she and Tobias Ostrander, our chief curator, have created a very special exhibition that will travel on to Louisville’s Speed Museum and Duke University’s Nasher Museum. Big shoutout to Trevor Schoonmaker. We will acquire her work with the fund this year. Last year, we bought a work by Tschabalala Self through the Fund. There are so many acquisitions that I find exciting but these young women—and I would add Christina Quarles to that conversation, whose work we bought through our Collector’s Council last fall. Amazing young artists. We also bought a work by Luchita Hurtado through the Council. More recently, we have a promised gift from Jorge Pérez on view that is a very large painting by Barthélémy Toguo, a Cameroonian artist who should be much better known here.

Can you talk about any emerging or established artists you have your eye on for the next year? We will be opening a major exhibition on Beatriz González in April! I’m also psyched to see all the artists in our upcoming exhibition “The Other Side of Now: Foresight in Contemporary Caribbean Art,” organized by María Elena Ortiz. Of them, Sheena Rose, is one to watch.

What does the Art + Soul Celebration, which commemorates the fund, mean for you personally? A celebration of Miami, through art and culture, and its relationship to the African diasporic community.

How do you hope this impacts the local community and younger generations? Obviously, representation is a big part of what a museum does, and PAMM wants to be the best at representing Miami and its peoples, so the fund helps us do that! The museum began collecting in the mid-1990s and the art of that moment is our foundation.