Art Beat: Franklin Sirmans LA County Museum of Art Episode 23

Host Kinte K. Fergerson
Guests: Franklin Sirmans
Web Address:×09
Live Listener call in #: (909) 362-8242

Since January 2010, Franklin Sirmans is the Terri and Michael Smooke Department Head and Curator of Contemporary Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He is the curator of recent exhibitions on Steve Wolfe and Vija Celmins which both traveled to LACMA. At LACMA, Sirmans has installed Color and Form, selections from the Broad Collection to coincide with the museum’s presentation of Blinky Palermo; an exhibition from the museum’s permanent collection titled Human Nature (cocurated with Christine Y. Kim) and a solo presentation of works by Robert Therrien from the collections of Broad and LACMA. He is at work on a solo project with Ai Weiwei, opening September 2011 and overseeing installations of new works by Bruce Nauman and Chris Burden in addition to the traveling survey exhibition Glenn Ligon: America, all for October 2011.

Prior to LACMA, Sirmans was Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Menil Collection in Houston, from 2006-2010, where he organized ten exhibitions in three years including Maurizio Cattelan accompanied by the catalogue Is There Life Before Death?; Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster, 1964-1966; Steve Wolfe: On Paper; Face Off: A Selection of Old Masters and Others from The Menil Collection; John Chamberlain: American Tableau; NeoHooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith; Robert Ryman, 1976; The David Whitney Bequest; Otabenga Jones: Lessons from Below; and Everyday People: 20th Century Photography from The Menil Collection. He was also the coordinating curator for major traveling exhibitions on Bruce Nauman and Marlene Dumas. Sirmans also served as a lecturer and advisor at Bard Center for Curatorial Studies from 2008 to 2010.

After graduating from Wesleyan University in 1991, Sirmans worked on the first retrospective of the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Whitney Museum of American Art. After spending time in Europe and writing and performing poetry, he worked at Dia Center for the Arts from 1993 to 1996 as Publications Assistant and was Editor at Flash Art Magazine from 1996 to 1998. As an independent curator and freelance writer from 1998 to 2006, he was also a Curatorial Advisor at PS 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York and a teacher at School of Visual Arts, Maryland Institute College of Art and Princeton University in addition to editing the magazine Art Asia Pacific.

Sirmans has also organized exhibitions including Negritude at Exit Art, 2009 (cocurator), For the Love of the Game: Race and Sport in America at the Amistad Center/Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art, Hartford (2007); Basquiat (Brooklyn Museum, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2005-2006), Make it Now: New Sculpture in New York (Sculpture Center, NY, 2005) and One Planet Under A Groove: Contemporary Art and Hip Hop (Bronx Museum of the Arts, Walker Art Center, Spelman College Art Gallery and Villa Stuck, Munich, 2001-2003).

He has contributed to several books and catalogues including Tavares Strachan (MIT), 30 Americans: The Rubell Family Collection; Definition: The Art and Design of Hip Hop (Collins Design, NY) and Barkley Hendricks: Birth of the Cool (Nasher Museum, Duke University). A former Editor of Flash Art and Art AsiaPacific magazines, Sirmans has written for several publications including The New York Times, Essence Magazine, Art in America, Artnews and Grand Street. He has taught art history at Maryland Institute College of Art, Princeton University and SVA, the School of the Visual Arts. He is also a contributing and advisory editor for the literary journals Callaloo and Gulf Coast.

Born in Queens, New York, he attended Manhattan Country School, Albany Academy and New Rochelle High School. Sirmans graduated with highest honors in art history from Wesleyan University in 1991, after double majoring in English and Art History and attending Morehouse College for a semester, where he studied with the poet Mari Evans.

He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Jessica and daughter Stella.

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