The Rubell Family Collection is groundbreaking for many reasons. The collection spans the last few decades in contemporary art and is practically unmatched in sheer size and volume. Not fearing controversy or difficult subjects, many pieces in the collection endeavor to send strong social, political, and/or religious commentary.
However, one of the most groundbreaking aspects of the collection is the approach its founders have taken towards art collection.
When they started collecting art in the early 1960s, Don Rubell was still a medical student and Mera Rubell was just starting out as a teacher in New York. They allotted 25 percent of Mera’s monthly budget towards the purchase of original art. In this way, they grew their collection slowly by focusing on art they could afford, investing in young, up-and-coming artists. While their financial circumstances changed in 1989 after inheriting the estate of Don’s brother and co-creator of Studio 54, Steve Rubell, the Rubells’s approach to collecting remained the same. The new wealth only allowed these collectors to expand their scope and include international works from budding young artists.
While the collection may not contain any of the old masters, it certainly does contain many important works of art. Through their discerning taste and enthusiastic collecting, their efforts have yielded some success stories. Including a Cindy Sherman photograph purchased for just $25 and now valued at more than $250,000.
Over the past fifty years, the collection has swelled to include more than 1,500 pieces by renowned artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Kara Walker, and Andy Warhol. It includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, installation, and video art. It is an incredibly thorough collection that spans every major movement in contemporary art of the last few decades.
Although they have become art stars in their own right, the Rubell Collection is still a (mostly) family business. With the help of their children, Jason and Jennifer, the Rubell clan continues to lovingly scout out and work with emerging talent across the globe.
Perhaps most importantly, the Rubells do not keep their magnificent collection to themselves. Their collection is housed in a former Drug Enforcement Administration storage warehouse in Miami and is open to the public from mid-December through early August of each year. Additionally, the Rubells are widely credited with helping to revitalize this once undervalued area of Miami. As their brand continues to grow (the family business also includes hotels in Miami, Washington DC, and Baltimore), so does the Rubells’ impact as each community they choose to invest in receives a boost of energy and activity.
In the fifty years since the collection was founded, Donald and Mera Rubell, have revitalized the art scenes in Miami and other cities, started a new trend in art collecting by encouraging others to take their proactive approach and share their private collection with the public. They have preserved countless pieces of art for future generations, and, in the process, transformed their own lives.
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Fisher, Marc. “The Rubells: Art Collectors with Edge Make D.C. Their Own.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 01 Oct. 2011. Web. 31 May 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-rubells-art-collectors-with-edge-make-dc-their-own/2011/09/19/gIQAqnjkAL_story.html>.