On this episode of the Artmatcher podcast, Franklin Sirmans speaks with Michael Goodman about relevant transformations within the art industry. The duo discusses how Covid-19 has altered the way art is consumed by the public, and which effects will be permanent. Michael asks Franklin about recent technological shifts in the art world, like NFTs, and how he stays up to date with the fast-paced trends. They discuss how art may serve as a catalyst for difficult conversations pertaining to social justice and inclusivity, which Franklin is quite passionate about. They touch on accessibility to art, academia, and much more.

About Franklin Sirmans

Franklin Sirmans was born in New York City, Queens. He earned a BA degree in the history of art and English from Wesleyan University.

In 1993, he began his career at the Dia Art Foundation as a contributor to publications. In 1999, Sirmans organized an exhibition in Los Angeles, followed by an exhibition in Atlanta and Baltimore, as well as the shows America Remixed in Milan, Italy; Mass Appeal in Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, and Sackville, Canada.

From 2001 until 2003 he curated One Planet Under A Groove: Contemporary Art and Hip Hop at the Bronx Museum of Art; the Spelman College Art Gallery, Atlanta; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and the Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany.

In 2004, he organized the exhibit Ralph Bunche: Diplomat for Peace and Justice at the Queens Museum of Art. He was co-curator of Basquiat from 2005 until 2006, which traveled from the Brooklyn Museum to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art before arriving in Houston.

Sirmans served as The Menil Collection’s contemporary and modern art curator from 2006 until 2009 when he was awarded the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation’s Gold Rush Award.

In 2010, he became the department head and contemporary art curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) where he worked until 2015.

At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is an art museum in Los Angeles, California. It has a permanent collection containing more than 130,000 works of cultural notables such as Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso. It was founded in 1965 and today is considered one of the best museums in the United States.

At LACMA, Franklin curated Maurizio Cattelan: Is There Life Before Death?, Fútbol: The Beautiful Game, Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada, Variations: Conversations in and Around Abstract Painting, Ends and Exits: Contemporary Art from the Collections of LACMA and the Broad Art Foundation. He was also the co-organizer of the exhibition Human Nature: Contemporary Art from the Collection.

Much of Franklin’s success at the LACMA can be attributed to his ability to reach out and work with contemporary artists, which is exactly what led him to PAMM

At the Pérez Art Museum Miami

The Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) is a museum of modern and contemporary art located in the Biscayne Bay Campus in Miami, Florida. Founded in 1984, the museum’s primary focus is art from cultures of the Atlantic Rim, which it describes as the Americas, Western Europe, and Africa.
Franklin was appointed as a director on January 20, 2016. Since then, he has brought some incredible exhibitions to Miami’s waterfront museum district such as Toba Khedoori and The World’s Game: Futbol and Contemporary Art.

He is also involved in a number of educational programs that are helping to make PAMM accessible to all art lovers who live in Miami or visiting from abroad. He has made it clear, through his work that he deeply values diversity not only as a curator but as a person.
Franklin has made it his mission to ensure that everyone who walks through the doors of PAMM feels welcome and at home in the museum.

Other Roles in the Arts

Franklin is also an art critic, editor, writer, and educator. He has written for several journals and newspapers on art and culture, including The New York Times, Newsweek International, Art in America, ARTnews, Grand Street and Essence Magazine. Some of his publications included:

  • One Planet Under a Groove (2001)
  • A Mythical Metropolis Materializes in Queens (May 20, 2001)
  • The No-Tech Way Toward Art-Making (September 2, 2001)
  • Mapping a New, and Urgent, History of the World (December 9, 2001)
  • Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster, 1964–1966 (January 31, 2011)
  • Edward Kienholz , All – American Yawp (March 2012)
  • L.A.’s Best, 2013—Franklin Sirmans (December 18, 2013)
  • Basquiat and the Bayou (October 25, 2014)
  • Prospect.3: Notes for Now (November 11, 2014)
  • Sterling Ruby (Phaidon Contemporary Artists Series) (October 10, 2016);

He has taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art and Princeton University.

Basquiat and the Bayou

It’s hard to imagine Jean-Michel Basquiat without first thinking of the graffiti-like paintings that made him famous, but there is much more to Basquiat. In Basquiat and the Bayou, Franklin dives into Basquiat’s interest in Afro-Atlantic culture and the Southern-themed paintings he produced in his short life. In-depth essays examine Basquiat’s interest in the subject matter, despite the fact that he had little direct interaction with the culture outside of his family upbringing.

Recommended Links

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Key Moments in the Video

  • 0:35 Getting to know Franklin
  • 5:10 Meeting a museum curator’s standards
  • 7:25 The pandemic’s effects on showcasing art
  • 11:30 The future of digital art
  • 14:47 How does art play a role in daily life?
  • 20:10 Getting your work in a museum
  • 26:05 The issue of accessibility
  • 30:40 The Perez Art Museum loves local art
  • 38:15 Museums work surprisingly well together
  • 41:45 The influence of Botero

Frequently Asked Questions

Franklin Sirmans is an American art critic, editor, writer, curator, and director of the Pérez Art Museum.

Franklin Sirmans is the director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) since October 2015.

Franklin Sirmans was born in New York City, Queens.

Franklin Sirmans earned a BA degree in the history of art and English from Wesleyan University.

Franklin was the curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) from 2010 until the fall of 2015.

Franklin Sirmans is best known for his work, Basquiat and the Bayou (2014).