A Beacon for Modern Art

MTV2's "Off the Bat from the MLB Fan Cave" featuring David Ortiz and Fat Joe

Attention, attention, basel partygoers: Miami’s art scene doesn’t vanish after the first week of December. It’s there year-round, and it’s spectacular. In fact, long after the jet-set’s hurricane of money has moved on (you can’t even joke that “at this point, more is being spent on the parties than the art” because have you seen what people are spending on art) there remains an authentic and multicultural community with its own defined aesthetic. Miami artists often have a vibrant sincerity unburdened by the heavy self-awareness of their New York counterparts. With this great art comes the great responsibility to give it proper showcasing, and many museums have been vying for the privilege.

Despite having opened only two years ago, the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) has already established itself as one of the area’s biggest draws. Though the takeoff was a little bumpy—namely the controversy surrounding the naming of the institution after a donor, in this case billionaire Jorge Pérez (a practice that never seemed to hurt the Guggenheim)—the museum’s path to success has been a fairly smooth ride. PAMM has proven to be an impressive cultural center that, though young, understands what stories it wants to tell to the world. “We have a very unusual relationship with North America, South America, and the Caribbean,” said Thomas Collins, the museum’s former director. “We want to take advantage of the fact that we’re central to that matrix of cultural and material exchange by organizing exhibitions and growing collections that really reflect the diversity of this place. The diverse demographics of Miami are an index for everything we do.”

That sense of community is reflected in exhibits by locals like Nicolas Lobo, whose piece “The Leisure Pit” was commissioned for one of PAMM’s project galleries. The balance between regional and international focus has been hard-won: last year, controversial local artist Maximo Caminero smashed a vase by Ai Weiwei in protest of what he perceived to be the museum’s neglect of its native scene. But PAMM has proven that it can handle its critics, having become a major civic institution in a city that draws crowds from next door and abroad.

PAMM’s new director, Franklin Sirmans, took the reins on October 15 of this year. He plans to take advantage of the incredible art and collections around the city. “The museum can be that central spot where everybody can come together and talk about these things—not only in December, but year-round,” he says.