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Since the Pérez Art Museum Miami’s (PAMM) reopening in a new building designed by Herzog & de Meuron in 2013, it has been a must-visit spot on everyone’s itinerary during the week of Art Basel Miami Beach. This year, it will surely draw crowds again, this time with exhibitions of work by Nari Ward and Firelei Báez, a performance by Devonté Hynes and Ryan McNamara, and a brand-new director, Franklin Sirmans.
Sirmans joins PAMM from his former post as the department head and curator of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He was also the curator of the 2014 Prospect biennial in New Orleans. Starting just this October, he told Whitewaller, “For me, it is still a moment in which to watch, listen, and learn from my point of view, but I am excited to be working with this incredible museum staff and exceptional curators that lead the particular work we do. Art education is alive and well here and we want to build on that foundation.” He continued, “We serve more than 70,000 thousand children in our county, the nation’s fourth-largest school district, and we want to extend those numbers in other demographics. Not only are we going to have one of the best education programs as part of the 21st-century museum (led by Mari Robles), but we aim to serve more of our community and we have lots of room for growth.”
In November, PAMM debuted “Sun Splashed,” the largest exhibition of work by Nari Ward to date. The show includes the found-object sculpture, assemblage, and installation for which the artist is best known, but also his less familiar video, photography, and collage—all confronting issues of race, class, politics, and culture. Firelei Báez (coincidentally a former student of Ward’s) will also have work on view this winter in a solo show of intricately made works on paper and a fresh body of new paintings. Not unlike Ward, Báez, a native of the Dominican Republic, deals with themes related to black culture and the Caribbean diaspora in her practice.
Especially for the week of the Art Basel Miami Beach, PAMM commissioned a performance entitled “Dimensions” on the museum’s terrace for Thursday, December 3, with Devonté Hynes and Ryan McNamara, a fruitful result of its Researcher-in-Residence program. The musician and producer sometimes known as “Blood Orange” wrote a multipart composition illustrated by McNamara’s sculpture and choreography. Both were inspired by the history and fantasy of South Florida—the ocean, the architecture, the opulent estates, the towering high rises—all taken in over several visits to South Beach and Downtown Miami over the past year.
Between the market-focused fairs and the too-many-to-count brand-sponsored events, PAMM will offer Basel-goers a much-needed moment of culture and conversation. Said Sirmans, “During Art Basel, while we talk about the artworks that we all love and that prompt so many of the conversations we love to have at the museum, we want to highlight the work that those artworks engender via the sharing of ideas and dialogue in the museum on a primary level and then out from there in tangential circles from word of mouth to publications and social media . . . sharing what happens here with the world.”