Rubell Museum Walking Tour

GEOGRAPHY

Northwest of Downtown Miami and East of Miami International Airport, the neighborhood of Allapatah became as of December 4th of last year the new home to the Rubell Museum. This neighborhood has received several waves of immigration including black Americans, Cubans, Haitians, and especially Dominicans, with a sector of this neighborhood being nicknamed “Little Santo Domingo” back in 2003. Allapattah offers residents a cultural collision as well as an urban suburban mix feel. Much like the neighborhood that welcomed it, the Rubell Museum is no stranger to a strange mix, and under its roof can be found a multitude of artworks that reflect the diversity of both the styles and cultural backgrounds of the artists. Seems like Allapatah and the Rubell family collection might just be the perfect combination that Miami was waiting for to reinforce its place as a world-renowned cultural melting pot, making this a very fitting place to upscale their showrooms from a small building in Wynwood to a massive 100,000-square foot museum. 

ACCESS

1100 NW 23 St. Miami, FL 33127

(305) 573-60902

http://rubellmuseum.org/visit

Admission to the Rubell Museum:

-FREE for children 18 and under, students, and active military personnel

-$10 for Miami-Dade residents and teachers

-$15 general admission 

The museum can be reached by car, with parking available either alongside the main entrance or across the street from it, but the experience is enhanced when visitors hop on the Brightline (Miami’s new express train). An association between the Rubell family and Brightline is not a far-fetched idea as both are privately funded initiatives that provide easy access to the arts. Not only do Brightline passengers get FREE admission to the museum but the train is wrapped with images of some of the highlight works in the Rubell collection (namely Keith Haring’s works), extending an invitation to inadvertent passengers to hop off at the Santa Clara stop, and take a short walk to the museum. 

MISSION

The Rubell Museum has the mission to advocate diversity in the arts, make it accessible to the public, support emerging artists, and open the grounds for richer intellectual and artistic deliberation. The Rubell family collection accomplishes this by representing an eclectic mix of contemporary artists from a diversity of cultural and geographical backgrounds, with special attention to seminal artists. The museum is dedicated to public service by sharing the family’s private collection, endorsing public programs such as a partnership with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools System, and hosting a wide range of artists for residency. Furthermore, it has become a critical stepping stone for new, underrepresented artists to step onto the world stage. 

HISTORY

Married in 1964, and with no knowledge of art, Don (a med student) and Mera Rubell (a teacher) began building their collection by visiting studios, museums, galleries, and fairs near their home in New York City, and talking with different artists, curators, and gallerists to learn more about the works that caught their eye and the artists that made them. It was only after an expansive research and unanimous love of the artwork that the Rubells made a purchase. Their modus operandi has proven effective as their collection of contemporary art amounts to 7200 works by 1000 artists, and they continue to implement their strategy even today, alongside their son Jason who, having a degree in art history, went on to become their most trusted advisor in scouting out new artists. They bought their first artwork 54 years ago, and the only way they could afford it was to pay it in small installments of $25 per week. One of the most remarkable aspects of their collection is that each piece holds a special place in their hearts since they collect out of passion and love of art, not for profit. In the words of Mera Rubell herself: “We rarely sell, if ever. We usually just sell to buy something else.”

Mera (left) and Don Rubell (right). Photo by Chi Lam, 2010.

The Rubells have been wise when purchasing art. They like to find overlooked yet promising artists early on in their careers. Their collection includes works by renowned contemporary artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cecily Brown, Keith Haring, and Yoshitomo Nara. The result is a deep collection full of resonances and dissonances.

By the late ’70s, the Rubells had become patrons on the New York art scene, and in 1993, the Rubells moved to Miami; more specifically, to Wynwood, where they showcased their expansive collection in the Rubell Family Collection Contemporary Art Foundation. Their entrance into the Miami art scene paved the way for many other private collections that followed, forever transforming the neighborhood of Wynwood into the art and design district that it is today. Their foundation pioneered a new way of not just showing but sharing private art collections and inciting the conversation around them. 

Exterior view of the Rubell Museum. Photo by Nicholas Venezia.

On December 4th, 2019, the family bought an industrial building in Allapatah and transformed it into the new Rubell Museum, of which 80% is publicly accessible, 65% is dedicated to long-term installations, and 35% to special exhibitions. The museum’s first exhibition features works from the Rubell’s immense collection, and fills all 40 of its galleries. Furthermore, their collection has such a wide spectrum that the Rubells have been able to create 48 exhibitions featuring artists they met 50 years ago, and others they met last week. It’s safe to say that it is not only underdog artists the Rubells have taken under their wing but whole neighborhoods too, and in time, Allapatah will likely enjoy the same kind of artistic and cultural spur, and international acclaim as Wynwood, all of which is sure to impact the area’s socio-economic condition. 

RUBELL MUSEUM VIRTUAL WALKING TOUR

The museum has two main entrances: a Southern and a Northern entrance. As seen on the floor plan, the North entrance can be accessed from NW 23 St. and leads into a beautiful garden. The South entrance is on NW 22 St. and leads into a courtyard. Both outdoor spaces are perfect for hosting events, a service that the Rubell Museum proudly offers. They both lead to a covered area that acts as a tree trunk from which galleries branch off. The idea behind it is that the sections are independent from one another and focus on different styles of art. The artworks have also been organized in such a way that visitors traveling through each of the 40 the galleries can have an immersive experience aided by a smooth transition from one room to the next.

Floor plan of Rubell Museum.
Rubell Museum Garden
Covered Area

RESEARCH LIBRARY

As you make your way to the right from the Lobby, you will find the Rubell Museum’s Library on the right/North side of the building. With 40,000 volumes, this is the most extensive Art Research Library in all of South Florida. It also makes the perfect spot to host a private meeting or dinner.

GALLERY No. 23

Stepping out of the library and back into the Museum Main Hallway, make a right, and continue to walk straight until you are face to face with Kehinde Wiley’s “Sleep” (pictured below) in the museum’s main gallery, Gallery No. 23.

Kehinde Wiley, Sleep (2008). © Kehinde Wiley. Image courtesy of the Rubell Museum.

Kehinde Wiley is a contemporary African-American painter known for painting hyper-realistic portraits of black men and women, with a distinctive background full of color, texture, and flare. Wiley creates iconic, one of a kind pieces that portray African-Americans in a different light, and with the pluralism that is born of African-American culture’s whimsical fusion with the more classical Renaissance-worthy realism. His style is significantly different from Haring’s but this painting finds a home in Gallery No. 23 of the museum (see Floor Plan), right before entering Haring’s gallery, as pictured below.

Don Rubell in front of work by Kehinde Wiley and Keith Haring at the Rubell Museum. Image courtesy of the Rubell Museum.

KEITH HARING’S GALLERY

Right after Gallery No. 23, and moving West, you will enter a set of galleries primarily featuring Keith Haring.

The Rubells are longtime supporters of the legendary Pop artist Keith Haring, and their new museum has no shortage of the late artist’s works. There is an entire gallery exclusively for Haring, whose ties to the family went beyond art. Each piece of his is extremely personal for the Rubells, especially 20 Drawings, Oct. 3, 1989, which he dedicated in memory of Don Rubell’s brother, and Haring’s close friend, after he passed from AIDS. Put in his words “these drawings were created with the same energy and intensity with which he [Steve Rubell] lived his life.” It also happens to be the last work Haring ever created before his death (also from AIDS) in 1991.

Keith Haring’s technical simplicity is powerful enough to evoke complex social commentary. Lines and occasionally primary colors are Haring’s trademark, and with these minimal elements he is able to challenge social ideas that include environmental destruction, capitalism, poverty, religion, and AIDS, making his works incredibly intentional across the board. He made his voice heard, and was active in the battle for social and political awareness. 

“Against All Odds” (left) in Keith Haring’s Gallery at the Rubell Museum.

In “Against All Odds”, one of his most notable and monumental pieces, Haring stays true to his personal style, featuring two human silhouettes (so ubiquitous in his art), and a vibrant red heart shape, and using these common elements to state the uncommonly spoken truth regarding the deteriorated state of our environment. As Haring himself said: “These drawings are about the Earth we inherited and the dismal task of trying to inherit it – against all odds.”

Keith Haring’s Gallery at the Rubell Museum.
Keith Haring’s Gallery at the Rubell Museum.

THE EAST WING

Walking back towards the Lobby, you can walk to the East end of the building. In there you will find the East Wing. The 7,300 square feet open space area is meant to host a wide diversity of social events from cocktail parties to fashion shows, and it features loading zones, parking areas, and private restrooms to accolade guests and hosts alike. You can easily wander into this room and picture yourself attending or perhaps even hosting one of these exclusive events.

The East Wing at the Rubell Museum.

We urge you to visit the Rubell Museum when possible (FREE admission for students). In the meantime, check out this video to get a closer look at what you will find in it once you go!

Rubell Museum Inaugural Exhibition Tour

Rubell Museum Official Website

EDITORS AND LAST UPDATE

John William Bailly & Maria Carla Robaina 27 Marh, 2020

COPYRIGHT © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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