In Conversation with PAMM’s Franklin Sirmans

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Miami’s cultural scene isn’t as big or as well known as those of New York, Chicago, or even Los Angeles, where several South Florida artists have moved to further their careers in recent years. But as the arts in Miami have grown and developed, the city has become a cultural destination in its own right. Case in point: Franklin Sirmans, who left the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to join the Pérez Art Museum Miami as director in October.

“If you think about our whole constellation of spaces–the Bass, the ICA, even the Wolfsonian–there’s a very young conversation that’s happening here, and it’s still developing. So we’re working from the vantage point of creating that history,” he explains. “Not that there is not already a history, because there is. But we’re in a very early stage of that conversation when you put it in comparison to a place like LA. For me, it’s exciting to be here now and to think about that kind of arc.”

Michele Oka Doner Adam from Roots2 of 4ev

Michele Oka Doner, Adam from Roots, 2007. Photo courtesy of Doner Studio and Casey Rae.


Though he’s spent his career in other cities–Sirmans also counts Houston and New York City as former homes–the director says that the creativity of Miami artists has inspired him for years. “I’m telling my age in mentioning them, but there are certain artists from here who have been very important to me in my own work and life and career.” He names Cuban painter José Bedia, and Naomi Fisher, the multi-disciplinary artist and co-director of the Bas Fisher Invitational art space, among his influences.

At PAMM, visitors can witness the strength of Miami artists firsthand. Part of the organization’s mission, Sirmans says, is to showcase local talent alongside artists from across the globe: “There’s a great community of artists [in Miami] who deserve to be seen in the context of a museum of our caliber.” This month, PAMM celebrates Miami’s Michele Oka Doner with an exhibit showing works from throughout the artist’s long career, ranging from the 1960s to the present.


Michele Oka Doner, Totem, 2007–2015. Photo courtesy of Doner Studio, Nick Merrick and Hedrich Blessing.

Doner’s name may not be familiar to you, but if you flew into Miami International Airport, you’ve probably noticed her work. One of the airport’s most heavily trafficked areas features “The Galaxy,” a swirling work of terrazzo flooring.

Her PAMM exhibit, How I Caught a Swallow in Midair, will show off Doner’s wide range of skills, from design work to paper to ceramics and more. The perfect multifaceted artist for a multifaceted museum, an agenda Sirmans will surely continue to push as its director.

Michele Oka Doner: How I Caught a Swallow in Midair
Running March 24, 2016 – September 11, 2016
Pérez Art Museum Miami 
1103 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132

Ciara LaVelle

Ciara LaVelle

Ciara LaVelle writes about art, pop culture, travel, and feminism. She lives in South Florida.