MAM is getting a facelift and a name change. How Miami.
You may not have heard above the Art Basel din about developer Jorge Pérez’s controversial donation of $15 million in cash and another $15 million in art to the Miami Art Museum. Why controversial? Well, to reward Pérez’s munificence, the museum is changing its name from the Miami Art Museum — a snappy MAM, for short — to the Jorge M. Pérez Art Museum of Miami-Dade County (JMPAMoMDC? PAM?).
Some may consider that a fair trade. MAM, after all, is in much need of funding to build its stunning $220 million, bayside, Herzog & de Meuron-designed building (slated for dedication in 2013), and Pérez had already donated $5 million to the effort.
Others, including Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago, are outraged at the name change. Here’s an excerpt from “What’s in a museum’s name? Everything”, published Friday:
What’s in a name? Everything: identity, ownership, pedigree, brand. And that’s why the Miami Art Museum’s name change to the Jorge M. Pérez Art Museum of Miami-Dade County is causing such consternation in the visual arts community. In most respected art regions, the major museum’s name honors the city and the arts, not individual donors, no matter how much they give to advance the museum’s development.
But now, it looks like MAM is no more in a city that aspires to grow its reputation worldwide as a cultural destination. All of a sudden, it’s the Pérez Art Museum, for short.
As Santiago mentions, the Miami art community is pissed off. Manuel González, a patron and MAM donator, called the name change “embarrassing”. Mary Frank, a recently resigned MAM trustee, called it “a sad day for Miami.” In a full-page ad in the Herald, Frank urged Miami residents, who ponied up $100 million in taxes to fund MAM’s new building, to demand that the MAM Board of Trustees “reconsider their ill-conceived plan”.
“The name of the museum belongs to the people of Miami and should not be sold at any price to any individual,” Frank wrote in the ad.
In that spirit, there is now a “MAM not PAM” Facebook page. Though it only has 100+ Likes at the moment, the page is packed with indignation. A tasting:
“Jorge Pérez, show some class and don’t put your name on our museum!” — Mari Upthegrove
“This Name Change is truly an OUTRAGE, and a huge slap in the face not only to city tax payers, but to the entire Miami Art Community and our beloved city. Make a stand people, lets NOT allow this to happen! Miami Art Museum Forever! Fuck Jorge Pérez and his sheisty philanthropy!” — Nina Arias
“The people of Miami are the primary benefactors of the Miami Art Museum. The name of museum should reflect that.” — Brian Gaither
With other local museums named after non-Latino benefactors (Bass, Wolfsonian, Frost), some people think the outrage has more to do than with Pérez’s name than the museum’s. Here’s an excerpt from John De Leon’s posting on the “MAM not PAM” page:
“While the idea that everything is for sale distresses me as a social phenomenon, more upsetting is the idea that a group is formed to oppose our museum being named after a ‘Jorge M. Pérez’. I guess it is too much for Mr. Frank to have not one, but two, Latino names ‘Jorge’ and ‘Pérez’ on a cultural institution’s facade in Miami.”
Whatever the cause of the consternation, it may be moot. MAM’s board approved the name change by a 30-4 vote, according to museum director Thomas Collins, who told the Herald the name change would have “absolutely no impact” on MAM’s mission and service to the community.
Perhaps not, but it may have an impact on attendance. Another posting on the “MAM not PAM” page: “I will not step foot into the museum if Jorge Pérez has his name on it.”