Selections from the donation by Jorge M. Pérez Collection of Latin American art were on view this past spring at the Miami Art Museum under the exhibition title Frames of Reference, curated by Tobias Ostrander. In fact, it is partly due to the donation of this collection, that the museum has been renamed the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) when it opens its doors in the new building designed by Herzog & deMeuron in December 2013.
The Pérez Collection of Latin American Art maps distinct moments in the history of the artistic production of the region: early 20th-century modernism with strengths from the Cuban vanguardia; mid-century neo-figuration approaches particularly from Mexico; strong representations from the School of the South; and several expressions of contemporary art. Within the historical movements and stylistic tendencies represented, figuration is privileged over pure abstraction and other variants of non-representational movements, and the general thematic focus resides in standard art historical genres: landscapes, portraits and still lifes.
The city of Miami is home to one of the largest and most diverse populations made up of individuals of Latin America and Caribbean descent. MAM’s current move to offer printed materials and educational labels in both English and Spanish signals an institutional strategy for reaching target audiences that reveals as much about how the institution wants to be identified (as bilingual) as it does about the community it represents. If we consider the transnational relationships that local artists and arts professionals continually maintain with Latin America, and with numerous additional cultural contexts across the world, then our local might be considered a new global. An understanding of Miami as the unique site for the contact and expression of various social, cultural and political realities in the broader arc of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean visual culture speaks to the potential of this collection, that redirects the focus of its value from merely assisting in the completion of a new building to its function as the catalyst for the building of a collection that displays a vested interest in the community in which it resides. That would be the next story worth telling.