pamm_web.jpgMIAMI — Hundreds of people on Tuesday witnessed Miami’s leading philanthropic community commit to fund, acquire and house African-American art in the newly opened Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM).

At a swank reception at the museum with the who’s who of arts and culture looking on, guests heard about the Pérez Art Museum Miami Fund for African American Art.

The fund has already raised $1 million, including a $500,000 donation from PAMM trustee and Related Group of Florida chairman/CEO Jorge M. Pérez and a matching grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Some African-American contemporary art: have been acquired: one work each from Faith Ringgold, Al Loving and Xaviera Simmons.

Alberto Ibargüen, president/CEO of the Knight Foundation explained how the partnership to fund African-American art began, adding, “It’s always good to take a call from Jorge Pérez but there is always a cost.”

Pérez wants to add more African-American art to the PAMM collection so it will better reflect the diverse population of Miami. He asked Ibargüen for a matching grant from the foundation to purchase museum-quality works. “I didn’t even have to think about it. I just said yes,” Ibargüen said. “It just made sense.”

Perez said he was motivated to add more African-American art to the museum’s heavily Hispanic collection partly because he wanted “to give back” to the community.

Tuesday night’s reception at the PAMM in Museum Park – formerly Bicentennial Park – in downtown Miami was a fundraiser of sorts. While Ibargüen stopped short of asking people to leave a donation as they left, he said the $1 million fund is just a start and that he will be contacting people in the community to make contributions.

“I want to see who is willing to step up. If there is support, I would be willing to consider matching other gifts,” he said.

In the early planning phase, the reception was going to be a gathering of about 35 people to celebrate the early contributions to the fund. But the guest list grew to about 10 times that number, and included artists Ringgold and Rashid Johnson and tennis superstar Venus Williams. The size of the crowd was OK with Ibarguen.

“This is your museum; we should all be here,” Ibarguen said to the guests. “I am happy you are all here.” Ringgold, who is 83, called the move to add the works of black artists “a wonderful, fantastic mission.” “I can’t believe it. It is what I want to see, museums buy African-American art. And it’s not New York; it’s Miami,” Ringgold said. “We came here 400 years ago and we worked so hard for our freedom. I look back on where we came from. What a story.”

PAMM acquired a work from Ringgold’s Black Light Series, Big Black, 1967, which is now on display as a part of PAMM’s permanent collection. Also on display from her American People Series is Die, 1967,  courtesy of ACA Art Galleries in New York.

Ringgold is known as a champion of the civil rights and women’s movements. Her works, Street Story Quilt and Freedom of Speech, have been purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Prior to the reception, PAMM already had on view 11 works of art representing the African-American or African Diaspora, acquired through gifts, purchases or on loan.

To help it identify contemporary, high-quality African-American art, the museum has assembled an advisory committee of curators, art historians, artists, educators and authors. The art purchased with the newly established fund will be used only to acquire African-American works, said PAMM director Thom Collins. Works such as Ringgold’s are desirable because they help to tell the African-American story of civil rights and the emergence of black consciousness.

PAMM opened in its new space Dec. 4, in time for Art Basel 2013. PAMM was originally founded as the Center for Fine Arts, and was an exhibiting organization with no collection of its own. In 1996, as part of an institution-wide reorganization, the museum was renamed Miami Art Museum and dedicated itself to collecting and exhibiting international art of the 20th and 21st centuries, with a special emphasis on art of the Americas.

The new museum has Pérez’s name to recognize his gift of cash and art — now valued at $40 million.  To create PAMM, it took $100 million in public funds and $120 million private funds from individuals, business and foundation support.

Through PAMM’s Knight Schools program, every third grader in Miami-Dade is invited to the museum, with their classes/schools for free, with support provided by the Knight Foundation.  Irving & Bernice Peskoe K-8 Center in Leisure City is the first school to visit PAMM through the program.

The idea that bus-loads of children will be able to see African-American works in PAMM excited community activist Thelma Gibson.

“I am ok with an Hispanic doing this for us,” she said. “They came into our community and we welcomed them. I wish it was one of us who was doing it but I am glad they want to give back.”


Picture above: david i. muir/for south florida times
Talent ON VIEW:  Lamar Lovelace, left, director of Cultural Affairs and Student Engagement at Broward College and Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Darrin Gayles view an art installation at the Pérez Art Museum Miami on Tuesday.