An Interview with Thom Collins

Miami Art Museum Director lends us his thoughts

Thom Collins stands at the center of one of Miami’s most awaited and talked about changes in Miami’s cultural scene. As the Director of the Miami Art Museum he is ushering in the closing of the Miami Art Museum and the opening of PAMM (Perez Art Museum Miami) in its new, swanky Herzog & de Meuron-designed digs on Biscayne Bay. The new museum will serve as an anchor of the 29-acre Museum Park overlooking the bay and will include public gardens and sculpture installations.

Thom brings an illustrious career as a museum director, curator, art critic and now a Miami Design District Ambassador. He’s brought his usual charming mix of humor and good taste and shared some of his favorite things with us.

What’s the first piece of art you fell in love with? 
Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915-1923)

Who are your favorite designers? 
Vivienne Westwood (fashion), 
Shiro Kuramata (furniture), 
Herzog & deMeuron (architecture), 
Lella and Massimo Vignelli (graphics and everything else…)

What is the best piece of style advice you’ve ever heard?
 “Less is a bore.” Robert Venturi

Who are your favorite writers?
 Walter Benjamin, Jean Genet, Joan Riviere, Timberlake Wertenbaker

Thom Collins, Director Perez Art Museum Miami

What is inspiring you these days? 
In no particular order: The music of Chavela Vargas, bipartisan political efforts in the U.S. Congress, theater of Robert Wilson, feminist art of the 1960s and 1970s, Buddhist monastics, solo performances by Fiona Shaw, the marriage equality movement.

What is your motto?
 “Quand on est dans la merde jusqu’au cou, il ne reste plu qu’a chanter.” Borrowed from Samuel Beckett
 “When you’re up to your neck in shit, nothing remains but to sing.”

What is your favorite indulgence? Spontaneous international travel.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 
In spite of the economic, social and political challenges, I remain optimistic and excited about working to support and promote all forms of progressive cultural production.

What career other than your own would you like to attempt? 
General Director of the Metropolitan Opera, host of “Fresh Air” on NPR, successor to Johnny Hartman as baritone champion of the American Songbook. I dare to dream.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? 
I wish I had a higher metabolism.

What’s something you love about your current home?
 My underground office has just one barred window high up on the wall behind my desk that is uncannily reminiscent of Robert Gober’s great sculpture Prison Window (1992).

What’s your favorite museum outside of Miami?
 The Stedelijk in Amsterdam—hands down.
May is Miami Museum Month it also marks the last month for the Miami Art Museum and its home on the plaza. Next we’ll see the PAMM open in their new sprawling building.

Photos by Justin Namon

Thom Collins, Director Perez Art Museum Miami
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