The city’s most notable gallery of modern and contemporary art, the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) showcases international art from the 20th and 21st centuries. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron and opened in 2013, the institution includes in its collection a diverse range of art referencing its location as the crossroads between North, Central and South America. Here PAMM director Franklin Sirmans provides his insider guide to the best of the gallery.
How should first-time visitors structure their visit?
Start with a walk through the surrounding sculpture garden and contemplate the view down the channel where the cruise ships are parked. After enjoying a coffee or tea at our restaurant Verde, which offers another view to the bay, take in the art by beginning on the first floor and working your way through the galleries up on the second floor where our special exhibitions take place.
What should visitors ensure they see?
Behold the work of Carmen Herrera, a hometown hero amongst the city’s art collections. This is how we enter into a conversation on geometric abstraction. Beyond Herrera you’ll find works by household names in most conversations on geometry and contemporary art, like Sol Lewitt and Robert Morris, and John McLaughlin.
When are the best times to visit?
Monday morning to start the week off fresh. It’s contemplative art-looking time. Come back on a Thursday evening to look at art, listen to music, see an artist talk and be otherwise entertained.
For visitors with limited time, which rooms and exhibits should be prioritised?
Our special exhibition of Julio LeParc is a once in a lifetime opportunity, organised by the great scholar and patron of the arts Estrellita Brodsky.
What’s your favourite work?
Don’t miss Hew Locke’s tour de force Hemmed in Two (2000), a room-sized flotilla.
Which work has the most interesting history?
As a museum of contemporary art located at the nexus of the Americas, we are an important destination for any discussion on the art history of Latin America and the Caribbean. Sue Coe’s graphic, politically charged artworks have often been produced for newspapers, magazines, and illustrated books, in addition to galleries and museums. Pinochet (1973-1983) is part of a series she created in protest of the dictator Augusto Pinochet, who took control of Chile by means of a U.S.-backed military coup against the president Salvador Allende in 1973. Pinochet, who retained power until 1990, carried out one of the largest campaigns of state-sponsored violence directed against a domestic population during the latter half of the 20th century. At least 4,000 individuals were kidnapped and disappeared, and more than 40,000 were imprisoned and tortured.
This large-scale work depicts tunnels under the National Stadium in Santiago, which were used by the military as sites for detainment, torture, and mass-executions throughout Pinochet’s tenure, but especially during the first few weeks after he took power. The artist’s inclusion of a Pepsi vending machine in this image is an allusion to the complicity of U.S. corporations in maintaining Pinochet’s dictatorship, as he privatised many previously state-run industries and opened Chile to the world economy.
What is the most controversial work?
In the work Páginas escogidas: la historia día a día, 2007–10, Havana-based artist Reynier Leyva Novo cuts and reassembles images and text from Cuba’s national, government-produced newspaper, Granma, to create his own provocative headlines as a political statement against Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution. Novo repurposes the newspaper in order to reveal how it functions as a tool for political propaganda.
What is the institution’s greatest strength?
Our building and our staff.
What is its greatest weakness?
Our weakness is our strength. We’re a young institution in the scope of museums. We have to be incredibly resourceful to make it work.
What’s unique about the institution?
Few American museums are bilingual as we are, and few highlight the presentation of artists of colour, or from the Caribbean and Latin America, the way we do.
What is interesting about the building PAMM occupies?
Perched on a hurricane-resistant platform on the edge of Biscayne Bay, the Herzog & de Meuron–designed building has a wraparound porch covered by a giant canopy that was inspired by Miami’s Stiltsville, a cluster of mostly 1930s-era houses built above the water. Vertical gardens designed by Patrick Blanc hang the length of PAMM’s three stories, tall windows provide sweeping views of the bay, and the grand staircase does double duty as an auditorium.
Where else do you recommend visitors visit in Miami?
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.
Visiting Pérez Art Museum Miami
Opening hours: Friday to Tuesday 10am-6pm; Wed closed; Thu 10am-9pm
Prices and tickets: $16; concessions $12
Address: 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33132