Though little-known outside of the well-defined circle of the Miami art district, the Rubell Family Collection is responsible for much of Miami’s extensive arts and culture scene. To date, it owns its reputation as the collection to inspire the migration of Miami’s biggest art festivals and event, the Art Basel, to its now historic home. Despite putting Miami on the map as a legendary art destination, the Rubell Family Collection is still considered a beloved miami museum for other reasons–namely its breathtaking collection of painting, sculptures, and video art and gigantic, 40,000 volume library of artwork available for loan.
Of course, the gallery is not without its hint of mystery. It’s now located in the heart of the Miami Wynwood Design District in what was once a DEA warehouse. Its exhibitions cycle through the least privileged among the art world: women, people of color, and every intersection in between. Critics and artists alike can lose themselves in the facility’s seemingly endless library of new and legendary work. And of course, the gallery is still maintained under the watchful eyes of its eponymous family, Mera and Don Rubell, and their children, Jason and Jennifer.
The Rubell Collection spans over fifty years of Miami art history in its 45,000 square foot facility and with the dedicated service of the Rubell Family, its presence in the Miami art district will continue to grow. Even now, the gallery is planning yet another move from its home in Miami Art District to the budding Allapattah District in December 2018. Guests interested in Miami art culture at its very core, as well as the burgeoning beginnings of the art district that now demonstrates it, will still have time to pay simple visit to the Rubell Collection before the big excursion for a homegrown lesson in art, history, and everything in between.
This article will cover the history and influence of the Rubell Family Collection in the modern Miami Art District.
Background of the Rubell Family Collection
The earliest version of the Rubell Family Collection was established in 1960s New York by its original founds, Mera and Don Rubell. The couple simply started collecting art on a budget of $25 per month. With time, their collection became the foundation for the careers of many significant contemporary artists, including Jean Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.
Until 1993, the growing Rubell Collection could be found in New York, until the couple made the call to relocate to Miami, citing the emergence of Miami’s historic art festival, Art Basel, as one of their inspirations. A year later, the Rubells and their son Jason founded the Contemporary Arts Foundation to expand “the mission of the Rubell Family Collection.”
Once a year, the Rubell Collection curates a major exhibition from its collection with an accompanying catalogue. Other smaller exhibitions are curated and sent out to tour other museums around the world several times a year, as the Rubell Collection makes frequent loans. Rubell Collection-curated exhibitions have appeared in the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the San Francisco Asian Art Museum.
In addition to curating exhibitions and a loan program, the Contemporary Arts Foundation regularly maintains an internship program and ongoing lecture series. It currently holds a partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools that offers thousands of students the opportunity to visit and engage with the foundation and the collection every year.
What Makes the Rubell Family Collection Unique
As one of Miami’s oldest and largest collections, the Rubell Family Collection has orchestrated a number of critically praised, financially successful exhibits–most of which are themed. Any casual onlooker of the Rubell Collection’s current and past exhibitions will notice a clear categorization for every collection: African-American Artists, women, Chinese artists, or artists of a specific media.
Because the Rubell Collection can merely select from its extensive catalog to build exhibits, it’s understandably easy for the gallery to execute its exhibitions months in advance while it continues to purchase new and relevant art. Exhibitions like Thirty Americans, which debuted at the gallery of 2008 as a collection of thirty African-American artists, can provide a wider range of art from celebrated artist types and provide a comprehensive look into the timelines and history of little known or underappreciated artists, genres, and mediums.
Because the Rubell Family are considered the trendsetters of Miami Art Culture, they can maintain incredible influence over the Miami art world in beyond. Categorized exhibits have since gained popularity in order parts of the Wynwood Art District, and the Rubells’ specific curations can be found at other museums on a loan.
Notable Works of Art in the Rubell Collection
Some of the Rubell Family Collection “categorized curations” include No Man’s Land, an exhibit comprised of solely women artists, both new and fully established. Cognizant of female artists’ obstacles to building an art career, the exhibit features newer, smaller artists with easily recognizable names like Jenny Holzer and Marlene Dumas. Every genre of medium of art – from painting to video to sculpture was featured in the May 2016 exhibit.
Another exhibit, entitled the Red Eye (named of the cross-country flight between New York and Los Angeles), only features Los Angeles artists and their work. Another exhibit, Video Art in Latin America, only showcases video artists from the continent’s most vibrant art destinations for a 3 month showing.
Son and family buyer Jason Rubell once exhibited his own art collection in his family gallery as part of his college thesis in Duke University in 1991. From the age of 13 to 21, Rubell collected treasured art of his own, to which he promptly displayed as a candid look into the styles and popular genres of the 1980s, where he first became involved in the gallery.
Smaller “project rooms” were also dedicated to work of a singular artist, showcasing the efforts of names like Jim Lambie, Andrea Lehman, and Keith Haring.
After 50 years of hand crafting Miami art culture, the Rubell Family Collection remains as one of the city’s biggest and most impressive galleries since its foundation. As the Rubell Family itself continues to expand – Don and Mera sport five grandchildren with budding interest in art history – so will the exhibitions and showcases of an incredibly forward-thinking gallery.
Art curators and appreciators around the world will surely find the Rubell Family Collection to be a valuable asset to Miami no matter where it may be located. Until its move in December 2018, consider a visit to the Rubell Family Collection a treasured opportunity to discover artists or genres that have been lost – and those not yet found.