It’s been a long wait for a new director since Thom Collins left the senior-most post at the Pérez Art Museum Miami. This month, the wait is over as PAMM announces the appointment of Franklin Sirmans as its new director. Sirmans’ appointment follows an international search led by PAMM trustee Dennis Scholl, collector and former Vice President/arts for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation who has called Sirmans “a rock strain the contemporary art world.” The search culminated with board meeting and prospect interviews in Aspen, providing both a respite from the heat, and prying eyes on candidates.
At the time of his appointment, Sirmans was a department head and Curator of Contemporary Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). From 2006-2009, he was the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Menil Collection in Houston. While he was there he received one of the first Gold Rush Award given by the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation in 2009. Before the Menil, there was a stint at the Brooklyn Museum during which he curated the “Basquiat” show in 2005, and so on. His credentials don’t end with prestigious museum positions and awards either, the new director is also a writer who was also the U.S. Editor of Flash Art and Editor-in-Chief of ArtAsiaPacific. With such a varied background, it’s not surprising he is a respected authority in the contemporary art world.
“I am so honored to be joining this exceptional museum and to lead this institution in its next phase at a pivotal time in the city’s growth full of tremendous opportunities for the museum and the city. I have long admired the museum’s history and was proud to have the Neohoodoo exhibition presented amidst the program. My family shares my enthusiasm for the city.”
He’s had a few cities to call home too. While he most recently was in LA, Sirmans was born in New York City, and grew up in Harlem, Albany and New Rochelle. He has been an instructor at the Maryland Institute College of Art and Princeton University. Leanne Standish, who had temporarily filled the position (as well as her former position of Deputy Director of External Affairs, was jubilant at the appointment.
Sirmans’ first order of business will be financial. He will be expected to increase private sector donations, which, outside of those made by Jorge Pérez, have fallen short of expectations. It’s a task he is taking head-on. “You have to do some things to make the shows happen; curators, in some instances, are the only ones that can make a show palatable,” he has said to the New York Times. “The idea of being a curator in the 21st century who solely puts together shows, and doesn’t have a part in fund-raising, is not a part of what we do anymore.”