In My Opinion

Fabiola Santiago: Miami Art Museum needs local collectors’ generosity

Dear Miami art collectors,

Some years ago, while writing about one of your donations of artwork to a local museum, I asked what you planned to do with the rest of that splendid, museum-worthy art once you’d moved on from this world.

I mentioned rumors and prevailing concerns that some of Miami’s top collectors were planning to bequeath their artwork to established museums around the nation — not to Miami’s fledgling institutions, which were back then, as they are today, in the process of building collections without sufficient acquisition funds or endowments.

“I do with my money and my art whatever I want to do, and if you say I said that in The Miami Herald, I will never speak to you again,” one of you said.

Regardless of that sentiment, I’ve seen all of you invest in this community in more generous and wiser ways that anyone could have ever predicted.

You not only attracted Art Basel, the world’s premier contemporary art fair, and kept it in Miami Beach for 11 editions and beyond, but the private spaces where many of you showcase your collections are world-class and hailed internationally as “The Miami Model.”

They’re open to the public year-round, most of them for free or for a minimal donation that’s invested in social programs in the neighborhood. You commission artists, superbly curate shows, and fund programming.


But here we are at a crossroads — an opportunity to rally around what could become a showcase institution, a major draw and cultural engine for Miami — and I can’t help but play again the role of impertinent journalist.

We love our private museums, but it’s time to call a truce in the epic battle with the quasi-public Miami Art Museum and embrace and support its new life as it transitions in the fall of 2013 into the celebrated Herzog & de Meuron building at the bayfront Museum Park.

No matter the name — and MAM will become the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) whether we like it or not because no one has upstaged developer Jorge Pérez’s $35 million donation of money and artwork — the museum has the potential to become a South Florida landmark.

There’s positive energy under the leadership of director Thom Collins, a pledge to increase museum support of the local art community, and donors are expressing confidence. Just this week MAM announced a $5 million gift from Coral Gables healthcare entrepreneur Miguel “Mike” Fernández and his wife, Constance.

With construction and moving costs covered by $75.5 million in pledges and checks, MAM is now focused on raising endowment money — and, more than ever, MAM needs your involvement.

A myriad issues have turned you away from MAM, from a basic lack of trust to disputes over curatorial choices, and certainly no one is predicting that disagreements won’t come up in the future. Nor am I minimizing the worth of the contributions you already make to other local museums.

It’s your art, your money — I still agree — and it was a bad call to change the museum name and tie up naming rights. But whatever we call it, MAM or PAMM, this is Miami’s museum and you’re needed here.

Read more Fabiola Santiago stories from the Miami Herald

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