Nov 29,2016
Author: Carlos Frias     Publication: VISUAL ARTS

The Pérez Art Museum Miami just got a lot more Pérez — $15 million worth.

The longtime arts supporter for whom the 3-year-old public museum is named, Jorge Pérez, has pledged a multimillion-dollar gift to the museum over the next 10 years with specific instructions. The goal: to acquire the works of Cuban and Latin American artists and bolster the museum’s endowment.

The donation includes more than 200 pieces from Pérez’s contemporary Cuban art collection, valued at $5 million, which the PAMM says will give it one of, if not the largest, collections of contemporary Cuban art in America. The other $10 million in cash will be donated over the next 10 years.

“This gift of Cuban art goes right to the heart of Miami,” museum director Franklin Sirmans said. “This gift makes us an important part of the conversation.”

Miami’s location as a gateway to — and from — Latin America requires the museum to speak to how Latinos have contributed to the city’s rise, Sirmans said. And while the museum doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as strictly a Latin American museum, it has “the responsibility, the place and the good fortune to talk from that space like no other contemporary art museum can,” Sirmans said.

“This gift makes us an important part of the conversation,” he said.

The museum has tried to reflect Miami’s diversity. In August it hosted an exhibit by the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and previously by Haitian-born artist Edouard Duval-Carrié. And since it opened, it has shown its ambition to be a worldwide destination, with an expansive opening-day exhibit from the Chinese subversive artist Ai Weiwei.

“This comes from a desire to show the best in international contemporary art. Period,” Sirmans said.

Pérez, the Argentine-born son of Cuban parents, has traveled to Cuba half a dozen times over the years, particularly to meet Cuban artists whose work has gained international acclaim. His earlier gifts to the museum included works from Amelia Peláez, Wifredo Lam and Mario Carreño.

His latest gift of 200 pieces includes works from contemporaries Glexis Novoa, Rubén Torres Llorca (both Miami residents), Cuban American Hernán Bas and famed Havana-born exile painter José Bedia. The donated works will be displayed as part of a special exhibit next fall.

“Every great city has to have at least one great art museum,” Pérez said. “It’s always been my intent to help continue creating that great museum. And we are well on our way to doing that with PAMM.”

As part of the first $5 millon cash gift, the museum must use the first million dollars in the first year to acquire more contemporary Cuban art. Then the museum will spend $1 million a year for the next four years to purchase the works of Latin American or U.S. Hispanic artists.

Pérez’s latest donation adds to his initial (if controversial) pledge of $35 million in cash and art over 10 years to build the PAMM, in which he requested the museum (previously called the Miami Art Museum) be named after him. The city donated land and more than $100 million as part of the museum’s financing.

His latest donation follows another substantial gift earlier this year. In May, developer Craig Robins donated more than 100 pieces of art in honor of the museum hiring Sirmans, the first African American to serve as PAMM director.

The second portion of Pérez’s cash gift of $5 million more over the final 10 years is bait. He said he wants his donation to entice other wealthy patrons to give to the PAMM to help make it a world-class art museum and increase its endowment. Last year, the PAMM’s endowment stood at just over $20 million. Some of the top museums can have endowments in the hundreds of millions.

“In order for me to ask others to commit,” he said, “one needs to show our own commitment.”

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