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In 1964, Mera and Don Rubell began collecting art. They moved to Miami 29 years ago, and opened the Rubell Family Collection in Wynwood just three years later. They’ve since presented 48 exhibitions in the space from their personal collection, which holds over 7,200 works by more than 1,000 artists.
Over the years, the Rubells have shown that their fingers are on the pulse, producing an array of successful artist-in-residence programs and community partnerships centered around education. And special for this month is the opening of their first-ever
Whitewaller spoke with Mera Rubell about the importance of art education, which artists she’s drawn to today, and what’s included in the new museum’s inaugural exhibition.
WHITEWALLER: Congratulations on the museum’s opening. Tell us a bit about the inaugural show, which includes over 300 works by 100 artists, in all 40 galleries.
MERA RUBELL: Our museum’s inaugural exhibition features works from our collection that are representative of artists and movements that have shaped global art history over the 55 years that we have been building our collection. It will feature a range of early, career-defining, and rarely exhibited works by close to 100 artists, many of whom we’ve supported and collected from the beginning, including a number of artists who participated in our artist-in-residence program. This show will fill the museum’s 40 galleries with surveys of artists whose practices have informed one another as well as explorations of individual careers, tracing our journey through artists’ studios, galleries, and art fairs in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Beijing, Tokyo, Leipzig, São Paulo, and beyond.
WW: How would you say your personal collection has grown over the past five decades?
MR: We have always built our collection as a family, without a curator or consultant, by studying art, talking with artists in their studios, visiting art fairs around the world, and listening to our gut. It’s a rigorous process that we approach methodically. We buy what moves us, not what’s “market approved,” we take risks, and we hold onto the works that we acquire. Our collection is constantly expanding as we acquire new works by emerging artists, which we exhibit alongside the internationally established artists in our collection.
Our unique approach has enabled us to create a contemporary art collection of incredible roaming range, from which we’ve drawn 48 exhibitions, including “30 Americans,” which in the tenth year of its tour is now on view at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.
WW: Since your collection’s start, you have focused on finding emerging artists that may have been overlooked. Who have you recently acquired that you feel is in that realm today?
MR: We recently acquired an incredible new rainbow painting by Vaughn Spann. Vaughn’s execution of these paintings on an unconventional medium like beach towels reflects his deep understanding of materiality and his playful and provocative approach to painting. His imaginative use of color and image creates an abstraction that pushes boundaries and stirs the viewer’s imagination.
WW: You collect by visiting artists’ studios, galleries, fairs, and more to dig a little deeper. Have you been to any artists’ studios or new spaces recently that have been especially inspiring?
MR: We recently rediscovered an artist, Tishan Hsu, whose work we originally acquired in 1986 from Pat Hearn Gallery in the East Village. We saw his work in Hong Kong not long ago and acquired a new piece. We find that we often rediscover artists within our collection as their work repeatedly excites and inspires us.