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.

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Episode Transcript

0:00:00.4 Michael Goodman: Hi everybody, I’m Michael Goodman with Artmatcher, the mobile app which will bring innovation to the art industry and is coming to you soon. While we work hard to build and release this app, we’ll be talking art with some of the industry’s most interesting and knowledgeable people. Whether you’re an art aficionado or this is all new to you, we’ll be here to provide valuable insight and hilarious good stories. Hope you enjoy our chat today. Thanks for joining us today with the Artmatcher podcast. We are thrilled to host Franklin Sermons, director of the Perez Art Museum in Miami. Franklin, welcome to the show. Please tell the audience about yourself. Sure. Well, first off, thanks for having me. Good to be with you guys. Yeah, Franklin Sermons, director of the Perez Art Museum in Miami. I don’t know. I went to Wesleyan University. I did my undergraduate degree there with a thesis on Jean-Michel Basquiat. And I’ve been kind of bumping around ever since. And that was quite some time ago. So I’ve been at the PAM now for almost six years, five and a half years.

0:01:19.2 Franklin Sirmans: And before that was in your town in LA working at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. And before that at the Menil Collection in Houston. So, yeah, a couple of very few very different institutions, but awesome places in their respective rights, I think.

0:01:41.7 Michael Goodman: Very big institutions. LACMA. What was it like working there? Oh, it was amazing.

0:01:50.3 Franklin Sirmans: One of the reasons why I was there is because of my dear friend, Michael Govan, who I actually worked with at Dia Center for the Arts many years ago in what was then his first role as director. And that was, gosh, that was the early 90s, early to mid 90s. And it was amazing.

0:02:14.7 Michael Goodman: I mean, you know, it’s it’s a great place in the middle of LA and you got 20, 30 some odd curators. It’s an encyclopedic museum. So you get this kind of breadth of culture that only certain places can have that. You know, I work at a modern and contemporary art museum now, which is obviously quite different. Would you say your view has changed kind of working in these institutions of the way you view art? I think I think what it does is it provides a context. Right. So working as an independent curator, you know, your context is is more open, more broad. You’re seeing things for better or worse, often through the lens of either the artist’s studio or or the space in which you can make something happen, which always differs. Is it a white cube? Is it a bar that you love? You know, it could change in that context. Whereas working out of the space of the institution, you’re always dealing with not only the architecture of the institution, but a history, an existing history of what has gone on in that space. And in our case, as in those three cases, what has been collected?

0:03:40.1 Michael Goodman: You know, so what are you presenting vis a vis the collecting history of the institution? And I find those things to be incredibly interesting. Like for me, as somebody who worked independently and was predominantly writing for a long period of time, it was more like I’m teaching 20th century art as it goes into the 21st century, but I’m not really able to kind of play with it in a way. Right. I can’t bring the objects out of the screen. I can’t bring the objects. We got a visitor in the studio. This is my niece Shiloh. She’s bugging out.

0:04:23.3 Franklin Sirmans: All right. All right. All right. So I like teaching. It was like you’re talking about objects and things and artists and and that’s good and it’s cool. And but it’s not the same as being able to move an object, you know, being able to put things in different contexts, which I really love.

0:04:48.1 Michael Goodman: So, yeah, because it’s interesting when I look at curators who are curating in those different spaces, you have mentioned like whether it’s a bar or a gallery, I always feel they’re limited by those spaces. Yeah. And in a museum, anything can happen. Yeah. You have a much larger space normally. But also I think about at the museum level, there is a some type of standard of art. I know that art is subjective, but how do you as a curator choose what a large potential global audience is going to be seeing? I think learning about it’s a great question for us that the guiding light is all of the things I mentioned.

0:05:51.1 Michael Goodman: The guiding light is not only what has been collected at the institution since 1994 when we started collecting and beyond that, what has been presented at the institution going back to 1983, just prior to when we opened on top of those kind of things, which is the history, then for us, we really take into account, well, where are we? What is our relationship to our immediate surroundings? And what we say and what we try to do, I think, is be reflective of our immediate surroundings. And to me, that means, you know, being a great museum of modern and contemporary art in an international context. But it also means being the best at presenting the work of Latin America, of the Caribbean, of the African diaspora and the US Latino experience, if you want to take it even further. So those are kind of not criteria necessarily, but I think it gives us a context from which we can work in a way that is truly effective. And so those are the kind of things we take into account when we’re making exhibitions, we’re bringing various artists into the space. First of all, is it any good?

0:07:09.3 Franklin Sirmans: Second of all, what does it mean to relate to us? Will our audience appreciate it? Those kind of things. Give me a sec, I’m just going to shut the door.

0:07:17.5 Franklin Sirmans: No worries. Okay. So in the last year, obviously the landscape has changed due to COVID. People can’t interact with art like they used to. Is that going to change what the institution, specifically the Jerez Museum will be showcasing and how we showcase? It certainly has. This last year is just, you know, there’s no way to kind of encapsulate it in words. We closed from March 16th until November 5 and have been reopened ever since then, but went from six days a week to four days a week. And we have instituted time ticketing, of course, and we’ve created a singular route through the museum that will bring you through each and every space. But it is somewhat of a prescribed situation, whereas it did not used to be that way. And those are all just, you know, precautions, just taking into account social distancing. And I think it’s created a pretty enjoyable experience for now, but I’m also eager to get back to a little bit more what it’s like from before, at least in that sense.

0:08:49.9 Michael Goodman: Right. The way that we can have full kind of reign to explore wherever you want within the museum space. So, yeah, it’s changed. It’s changed a lot. It’s changed the way that we go about presenting art. And it’s changed in some ways what we can present. Because I know during this time, me working with artists personally, it’s been like an incubation period for creating. So are you guys going to be looking for new talents of what? Because this is going to go down in history. We’re going to be studying this stuff. Yeah.

0:09:29.1 Michael Goodman: In some ways, I look at it the same way you just described it. We took a couple of large exhibitions. One had to been canceled. Two had to be canceled. One had to be postponed. And have taken the time to really dig deep into what we’ve done over the course of the last five years. And it’s been fortunate for us that includes doubling the size of the permanent collection. So that we had 1500 and some odd works. We now have 3000 and some odd works. And it’s given us the opportunity to think about that and to use that as a jump off point for, I think, some pretty exciting exhibitions. So when we reopened, we reopened with an exhibition called Allied with Power. It’s an exhibition of artists from the African diaspora, predominantly in this case from the Americas. Because there is a complimentary show at our sister organization, El Espacio, which is a space that George Perez has taken in Alapata, not far from us, maybe 15 minutes away. And there you will see a complimentary show that deals with the African diaspora, but primarily from the point of view of artists who are based on the continent.

0:10:51.2 Franklin Sirmans: So they’re complimentary in that regard. We then opened a show a month later exclusively of women artists called My Body, My Rules. And then just a few weeks ago, we opened another show about art and its objects and their relationship to text and to literature called The Artist as Poet. So those are all brand new shows. And there are two more to come before we even hit the summer. But they are not of the scale of that first one, Allied with Power, which takes almost about half of the space of the museum.

0:11:29.3 Michael Goodman: Does the current events of the art met of the art market kind of affect programming? I’m sure you’ve heard of NFTs, artists like Beeple and kind of the public wanting to engage in what that is.

0:11:51.1 Franklin Sirmans: I guess I participate, I think at all times what we’re trying to do as a museum that is, you know, predominantly, I would say, predominantly concerned with the contemporary. We do a lot in terms of modern art. But let me say it’s probably more akin to about a 30 70 relationship. So we think about our contemporary moment each and every single day and we want to be reflective of that. So we’re always looking at, well, what are new ideas that artists are playing with and how are they implementing that into the world? And how can we help present that conversation in the world? So it’s not just me. It’s a team of four curators or five curators, a huge team of artists, artists, educators, teaching artists who are also out there in our community making work, talking to people. And so we kind of we try to take that as a means, like a bridge in a way to new ideas. And so, yeah, we’re trying to be reflective of the moment at all times.

0:13:13.5 Michael Goodman: Because it’s interesting. It’s so interesting to me. The market is moving so fast. It seems like every day something is coming out, making headlines, and there’s these really phenomenal artists, which, as you said, you know, it takes a team of curator, great minds coming together, seeing how to put together a show that could hopefully inform the public on these real ideas, issues. But then right outside your door there’s, you have Wynwood, you have all these other real things that are happening that people are being influenced. And I always wonder how museums navigate, especially in a big city like Miami, with the commercial market. And is there, like, how does that play on it?

0:14:18.6 Michael Goodman: I would point to two very specific things that I think about often. One of them, well, the marketplace, not as much, right? Because, you know, we are, we do function within this ongoing marketplace of the distribution and presentation of art. You know, I would say a lot of the work that we buy is probably bought from galleries. So we are part of this, this work cog in that machine as well. And one of the things you point to, which I find so fascinating in the context of Miami, is how does art play a role in daily life? And that’s what we’re here for. Like, we’re here as a museum to provide a place where people can come and talk about art or talk about society in ways that they can’t anywhere else. And art, I believe, has the ability to be a catalyst for difficult conversations that might not take place if you didn’t have a little art in between or a little bit of, you know, it’s almost like a lube in a way. So, so there’s that. But in the context of Miami, you mentioned Wynwood. I would say that in addition to Wynwood, there’s the idea of art and its relationship to retail experience that is, I’m not saying it’s new or not in other places, but it’s pretty serious here.

0:15:44.4 Michael Goodman: And I think it’s fascinating, like the head of my collectors council is a guy named Craig Robbins, a brilliant, brilliant man who started the design district here in Miami, just north of Wynwood. And the way that art is incorporated into that entire neighborhood and context from Sol LeWitt to Virgil Abloh to who knows what is, is pretty amazing. And it makes for people to have some sort of experience with art, whether they know it or not, all the time. And if I think about, well, my daughter’s second favorite piece of art here in Miami is probably Carsten Holler’s slide, which is at Aventura Mall. And you literally go up like five stories in the air and you get to slide down this circular friggin slide. It’s amazing. So there’s art as experience, art as retail. And now we also have Super Blue Pace Gallery’s new experiential art project, they call it, opening here in Miami maybe next week. So all of these things play a role, I think, in making art more visible, making it more general, making it more part of people’s lives. And we’re here to do essentially the same thing. I think what we can do in that context is slow things down a little bit, do a lot of programming around the artworks, be collaborative, not just with art and artists, but be collaborative with socially inclined organizations.

0:17:31.4 Franklin Sirmans: And that’s where we find our reason to be in many senses.

0:17:39.5 Michael Goodman: For me, here in Miami and experiencing this, you use the word retail. Yeah. It’s very strong here. When during Basel weekend, every hotel becomes a gallery. Yeah. There’s parties revolving around art. And I always think being in the art space, as long as I have 14 years, what is good, what is bad. Is there a good or bad. I always turn to museums to guide me. We like some clarity of, I find that museums work needs to go deeper. It’s not on the surface. There’s something more, there is the context. Yeah, the perspective. How we’re looking at it. And it’s amazing that there’s a gallery like the Perez that’s going there and doing that. I’ve checked out a couple of videos of you explaining some of the art pieces. Oh, very cool. Specifically one referencing an exhibition with boats. Oh man, the Hugh Lock. Yeah, I love that. That it was not only reflecting of kind of like where boats are in the culture here. Yeah. But also, if I’m not mistaken, those boats were taken from all around the world. Yeah, they weren’t. So that brings in another aspect. Totally. And those cultures. And it keeps going.

0:19:31.8 Michael Goodman: Yeah, that, that to me is the kind of the difference of the art in museums, and the art that you see in some of the retail spaces. Yeah. And I think it’s interesting because a lot of artists who start practicing art, essentially, they first want to find a way to make a living and earn. And I think that affects some of the creative process. But it’s also just part of it. So, when an artist is looking to be in a museum. How would you, what would you tell an artist of how to go about that.

0:20:22.8 Michael Goodman: I think first and foremost, you got to be true to your vision. And I would say that in, you know, I would say that there also is, there’s some caution to that too, right, because if I were to truly answer the question, my knee jerk reaction to some artists might be, oh well, go to Yale. If you go to Yale University for their graduate program, I would say that the percentages are significantly high that you are going to see your work in a museum within a certain period of time. Now is that necessarily good. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. But that is the true wish answer to the question. I think one of the things that I find most exciting about the terrain that so many of us are discussing right now and I think you mentioned that in the NFTs a moment ago, is that there’s always been a space for art that is not made through the academy. You know, and, and I think that there’s a right now those those those those lines are being tested once again. I’m much older than you so I can think back to when I was in.

0:21:42.1 Michael Goodman: I was just, I was just coming out of grade school I going into high school, and it was kind of like the tail end of the art world’s infatuation with graffiti. Right. Jean-Michel hadn’t died yet, but had segue into something else Keith Haring had segue into something else, and their friends and their peers, many of them kind of slid off the conversation, right. People who were more defined by their relationship to writing in a public space to graffiti as a tradition. We’re not given the same kind of presence, if you will, that they had been for a short period of time in the 80s. So, I find a lot of the conversations now remind me of that and remind me of the fact that artists are gonna artists right like, you know, the countless number of artists who didn’t get to show in galleries after 1986, we’re doing national and international advertising campaigns for fashion for beverages for God knows what. And they created lives and they created a different artistic lives that I believe we’re now returning to value in ways that we did not always, and by that I can point directly to the great exhibition that Liz Munsell recently did at the MFA in Boston, which was about a kind of a genesis around, around hip hop and its relationship to graffiti.

0:23:30.9 Michael Goodman: I also think about not only that but here in Miami, we have a museum dedicated to graffiti which is also in the context of that neighborhood Wynwood, surrounded by live art and by murals, but providing a different context as well, and Lady Pink, one of those artists who first came out in late 70s early 80s is now having an exhibition there. So I just, again, it feels like such a really weird and interesting moment. The reason why I asked that. I went to art school. I went to art school on the West Coast called Los Angeles County School for the Arts. Wow. Yeah. And it was a school known for getting into art schools. In fact, art schools would come to recruit us right on, whether it was Cooper Union, Pratt, RISD. Oh yeah, I mean we weren’t even sweating it. And I said, wow, this is so skewed. Because there’s tons of art schools. I was very fortunate to get in. It was by audition. And going to that school. I was fortunate that there was a good diversity, meaning it didn’t look. Yeah, all we all look different. That’s awesome. We all look like we had different backgrounds.

0:24:57.7 Michael Goodman: And as I finished high school. The big thing was what art school did you get into. Did you get into Cooper Union, did you get into Pratt, RISD. And hoping what you said to get into Yale Fine Art and get into that program and hopefully, you know, become that mega rock star artist. And it’s interesting, because when I went to undergrad. I found out the school I was going to San Francisco Art Institute. They didn’t have a very high retention, meaning most students drop out. I was one of them. One of my buddies went on to finish his undergrad, go to get his masters. And his perspective on art completely changed after the grad program. And I was at a show. I’ll never forget I said, What do you think about the art, you’re a master. I said, I don’t know I gotta read the. I gotta read some information here I gotta I gotta see the content. Right. And it’s almost. He forgot how to see how to look without reading. And when I think about accessibility to art. It happens if you can’t read a lot of, you know, most of the world is in that position.

0:26:34.5 Michael Goodman: Sure. They’re not literate. Sure. I mean, we’re just forced to different language. Yeah, or yeah or a different language. So for me it’s always thought is what we see in the museums, sometimes skewed due to that. So, that process of who. And oh yeah. That to me is, it’s huge because I and I’m not taking away from the students who got there because it’s incredibly hard. They take such a limited. But that type of vetting. Does that make an academically built artists I guess it does maybe. Yeah, think about it. In some ways, yeah.

0:27:22.1 Franklin Sirmans: And it’s then then it becomes how far can you get away from that after.

0:27:26.8 Michael Goodman: Now, one of the artists here I’m not sure if you guys is very big in Miami graffiti artists is Alec monopoly. Oh yeah. Do you have any thoughts on his influence through a social I mean, he seems to have every wall. Yeah, here in the city. Yeah. Where does his type of art lie within kind of the academic sphere. Well, I think the beauty of it is probably that it doesn’t lie so much in that academic sphere. Super nice guy. No, we actually had an event at the museum with Alec. A year and a half ago or so.

0:28:14.1 Franklin Sirmans: And it was, it was reminiscent of one of the things I didn’t say in relationship to graffiti which would be a way of contextualizing Alex work. One way of contextualizing is that there is often an ephemeral character to it. Right. So there are certain murals or walls that we might actually see his work on this week. That might not be there next week. Right. There is, there is this sense that it can be done fast, potentially under duress but probably not. And that, you know, it’s about quantity, in many cases, and getting up and having that recognizable brand placed as much as possible. So it’s, it’s a different context than a lot of the work that we see in the museum space, but it’s certainly one that fits into a conversation on painting, a conversation on medium that involves spray paint in particular, and a big conversation conceptually on appropriation because so much of what he does is about appropriating recognizable images.

0:29:35.0 Michael Goodman: So, there’s, you know, there are many different ways that the work can play. And one of the reasons why I brought him is, I think, and this is what I hear from artists working. They look at an artist who is perceived to be successful. And it’s not necessarily, not only monetarily, but exposure wise. And I know there’s a flip side to it. You have artists in the fine art world, academic lens, whether it’s Damien Hurst or Jeff Koons, who’ve also done tremendous work who have the same amount of exposure, but are perceived differently. And does that, circling to how museums work with galleries, what role does galleries play with the Perez Museum? Do you guys work with local galleries? Oh, yeah. I mean, you remind me of the fact that, so right after COVID came on, we had our first Collectors Council meeting of the year in May. And we decided that we were going to only acquire works from local galleries. And so we did that. We bought about, I think, eight different works of art for the artists, mostly from here, but not exclusively, but certainly from the galleries that were based here in Miami.

0:31:18.5 Franklin Sirmans: We try to do as much as we can with our scene here. We know we’re nothing without that. And so we try to play as big a role as we can in that larger machinery. In the same ways that I can say that we’re only a little tiny cog in the big world of international art and all of that, when it comes to our ecosystem, we’re a driving force, I believe. And so we want to be part of that. And whenever you come to the museum, you know there’s always going to be something on the walls that was made here in Miami. And chances are, it’s probably going to be at least 10% of what’s on view in the museum.

0:32:07.3 Franklin Sirmans: And how, which galleries do you guys choose to work with? I love them all. I could list off the top of my head, but then I’ll leave somebody out and I’ll feel bad. I love them all, though. I mean, we have some great galleries. Spinello, Mindy Solomon, it goes on and on and on. Fred Schnitzer. I mean, you know, there’s a history here. It’s a pretty special history. It may not be like 100 years old or anything, but it’s pretty amazing.

0:32:43.8 Michael Goodman: Because one thing I experienced as a gallerist in my early days, it was just my work, my peers, no one who was known. And something that changed the landscape for me is when I started getting involved with secondary market art. One of the artists, you had mentioned Jean-Michel Basquiat, when I had the opportunity to sell one, it was a game changer. Because people saw, wow, he has this. He must be a bona fide gallerist or something. And I started getting involved, I’m not sure if you’re familiar, you probably are, Richard Hambleton. So I, a couple of years ago, started working with his work and showcasing it. And it’s amazing how certain people entered my space versus if I didn’t have those names, those guys who are more recognized, I wouldn’t have had the success that I’ve had. Yeah, definitely. So what is the process, the process from a museum’s point of view, looking at new artists? So we’re trying to be there every step of the way, in a way. Like, you know, we have great, like you mentioned, high school. I mean, we have great art high school here in Dash, our design and art school.

0:34:34.3 Michael Goodman: You guys looking that young?

0:34:35.7 Michael Goodman: It’s amazing. You know, we want to at least be aware. You know, it’s I drive by there every day, so I can’t help but be a little bit aware. And then beyond that, like I said, there are the galleries and there’s a scene around that. But then prior to that, there’s also like just a really, I think, a supportive network. You know, we have places like the Bakehouse Art Complex, which is just studios. It’s just it’s 20 some odd studios for people here, for artists to make work and have a place to make work. You know, especially artists who can’t do that in the confines of their home. Then there are smaller things like the Fountainhead Residency, which brings artists into town from elsewhere, but also is supportive of our local artists and our ecosystem here. So there’s and then there’s Oolite, which is run by Dennis Scholl, my dear friend. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant place that is also fostering a support system and the means of presenting art for so many here in Miami. So there are there are like all of these different things that are happening for us to be aware of and to if you’re super aware and you see something in one of those spaces, then go to the studio and talk further with an artist, get to know more.

0:36:00.2 Michael Goodman: I mean, we’ve yeah, we’ve been acquiring work by artists who have not had gallery exhibitions. So so we yeah, I think there’s a balance, you know, in the same way that you mentioned selling the Basquiat work in relationship to other artists who are lesser known. I mean, we do we do a lot of that. And and I think like there’s a brilliant kind of moment in in this exhibition, Allied with Power, right now, where there are artists who if you go to art fairs and all that kind of stuff, you’re going to know you’ve seen the work before. But like we have it right next to like some 20 year old kid who we just love this painting. And we bought it and we gave him like the biggest wall in the exhibition. Likewise, the artist who’s on the cover of that catalog is a woman named Nodline Pierre, who is not as well known. The work is sitting right next to Deborah Roberts, who’s had great stuff in the last year or Kara Walker, for that matter. But we gave Nodline the cover, you know, so it’s like, like, how do we change the conversations?

0:37:04.9 Franklin Sirmans: And I think that’s one way to do it.

0:37:07.4 Michael Goodman: Well, it’s interesting you talking about looking at the youth. Yeah, because I found that the art industry is somewhat ageist in the sense that if you’re a little bit older, it’s actually a positive because you’ve you’ve had time to think these ideas are more developed. Yeah. The experiences of living through it is very different from looking at someone who’s yet to learn about the world and absolutely and the context, as we’ve mentioned. Absolutely. And going back to what you were saying about like, I’m the artist in the 80s. If you were there. Yeah. It’s very different than today. You see just a lot of derivative stuff of it. And you understand that because you experience it. You know, you know, the history. Yeah. How does, how do museums work with each other? Because from the gallery point of view, galleries don’t tend to work well with each other. That’s from my own personal experience. Right on. There’s a lot of secrecy. Yeah. Is it that way between museums?

0:38:40.7 Franklin Sirmans: Nah, I would say that we’re trying to, we’re trying to foster a network of support as much as possible because it’s really, we’re so interdependent. You know, there are some things that we have in our collection that I know you can’t get anywhere else. And so like we’re doing an exhibition with the Frist in Nashville of work from our collection that is Cuban. And so, yeah, it’s different, right? And, and if we’re looking at vernacular Southern artists, which we also do, we probably will lean on them a little bit more. So, you know, we’re lending things, but we’re also borrowing things. And so we try to be as supportive as possible.

0:39:30.2 Michael Goodman: How often, from your experience, do museums borrow? Because I’ve always wondered that when I would see an exhibition that was lent by either a family or another institution, I said, oh wow, museums, this must be a common practice. Yes. In the programming, for instance, for the Perez, how often are you guys borrowing collections?

0:40:01.4 Franklin Sirmans: So we tend to do two major exhibitions a year and they’re usually generated, they could be generated from within or without, but what they’re trying to often do in such a large space, right, 10,000 square feet or more, is develop a timeline, is develop a history, even if it’s a singular artist or if it’s a thematic group exhibition. You’re trying to do a bunch of things. And chances are that one person doesn’t own all those things. So, I would say that, you know, a good part of our exhibition schedule, at least half of it is about bringing in things on loan for our special exhibitions.

0:40:45.4 Michael Goodman: Those exhibitions, do they tend to be retrospective?

0:40:49.7 Franklin Sirmans: In many cases, yes, but in some cases, like say Teresita Fernandez, I wouldn’t call it a retrospective, I would call it a survey, although it was a compendium from basically the late 80s to the present. So in some ways, it’s a way of looking back. And that included works from many different collections from around the world, actually. Likewise with an artist like Doris Salcedo, or who else? I mean, then again, on the other hand, we’re working on a big exhibition with an artist who is, it’s no sense in shipping the stuff all over the place, you’re actually building the work on site. And it’ll all come down and go away. And it will be quite expensive to build it all, but it’s going to be fantastic.

0:41:44.0 Michael Goodman: Wow. Another artist, maybe it’s not that the artists are referencing, but the influence of Botero, I have to ask, because I feel like this city, it almost be called Botero.

0:42:01.0 Franklin Sirmans: I think that you mentioned our relationship to art and daily life, specifically through hotels and the tourism experience. And Botero has been a big, big, big part of that. So you get to see him in different places around the city. That’s for sure. We had a painting up a couple of years ago, but those kind of classic large sculptures that are often monochromatic, they play really well in terms of hotels. But it’s interesting, he’s an artist.

0:42:38.1 Michael Goodman: He’s not only like a commercial success. Yeah, but I’ve seen him in some pretty serious institutions. It’s an incredible body of work.

0:42:49.0 Franklin Sirmans: Incredible body of work.

0:42:50.2 Michael Goodman: Yeah, absolutely. And extremely prolific. Yeah. Yeah. I see him every year at some booth at Basel. Of course you do.

0:43:02.3 Franklin Sirmans: Somewhere. Of course. And he’s important to here too. Plus, I mean, the Colombian connection is huge.

0:43:09.7 Michael Goodman: For sure. For sure. And influential. Yeah. How was it not having Basel last year?

0:43:17.7 Franklin Sirmans: It was weird, but you know what? We had it. It just was different. It was just way smaller. A bunch of galleries came to the design district and set up in some spaces there, storefront spaces. And then also the district supported a kind of fair within this large building called the Moore Building. And so there was a Basel. I mean, I felt like I didn’t feel as tired and crazy as I usually do, but I was definitely running around and a bunch of galleries took spaces up in Palm Beach. So I tried to be a part of that conversation as well. And it happened. It just happened on a way, way, way smaller scale. Definitely looking forward to a little bit more like the usual.

0:44:15.2 Michael Goodman: But. Okay. Okay. Okay. I’m almost done. I’m almost done. Yes. Grab Shiloh. My closing thoughts. What are your predictions for this coming Basel? You know, how’s the city feeling? Are they ready to engage again? I’m from Los Angeles. I just got in the other day. That’s right. And it seems like things are normalizing.

0:44:50.4 Franklin Sirmans: You know, I think I think I think we’re super ready because like it’s like you said, I mean, things have normalized here to a good degree. I don’t know. It seems to be all for the better. But we didn’t lock down as hard as other places. And because of our weather. We’ve been able to do a lot with the idea that outdoors is the new indoors. A lot of our projects have happened out in spaces. But I think that people are ready and I know they’ll really be ready by the time we get to winter. I’m I’m feeling like I really want to see what’s happening at Friis in May in New York. I don’t know if I’ll make it for sure, but it feels like I’m going to try at least. And I didn’t feel that way last month. So, you know, I think things are changing and I gosh, I miss LA and would love to be able to see the NARA show at LACMA and all kinds of things. But it looks like we’re getting better, right?

0:45:57.1 Michael Goodman: Yeah, I’m I’ve accepted there’s a new normal. People are more conscious about their surroundings. I think people are more focused. Yeah. And I think that’s great for our. I agree. I totally agree.

0:46:16.5 Franklin Sirmans: And it’s been walking around aimlessly. Yeah. And it’s been amazing to have people come in the museum and in this time period to be able to provide that kind of respite, you know, to get away from from some of the things that have been going on on one hand and then on the other hand, to have a contemplative space in which to think about kind of some of the things that we’ve been through in the last year.

0:46:42.2 Michael Goodman: Franklin. Thank you so much for doing this, for coming on. Thank you. Thank your daughter for joining us. Thank you for the excitement.

0:46:55.4 Franklin Sirmans: We love it. Thank you so much for having me in person. I look forward to it.

0:47:02.5 Michael Goodman: Have a great one. All right. You guys so much for tuning in. Cheers. Thanks, everybody. Cheers. Hi. Thank you so much for tuning in to the Art Matcher podcast. We had an interesting discussion, a great time, and we hope you did, too. Please tune in for next week’s episode and like, share and follow. For more information about the app, you can check out our website at Artmatcher.com or look us up on social. Stay safe and be artful.

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).

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