Mera Rubell: Museum builds on family’s contemporary art collection

Written by Jesse Scheckner on February 2, 2021
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Mera Rubell’s days continue to be busy. She swims every morning, plays tennis a few times weekly and, when she isn’t running the family real estate business with her husband, Don, and her son, Jason, her focus is on curating and adding to the family’s famed contemporary art collection, much of which is on display at the Rubell Museum.

The 100,000-square-foot, 40-gallery museum in Allapattah, which opened in 2019, is the successor space to the 40,000-square-foot Rubell Family Collection that since 1993 attracted art lovers from across the world who sought firsthand views of work by Any Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Cindy Sherman, Yoshimoto Nara, Kara Walker and myriad others, the preponderance of whom were largely unknown when the Rubells supported them.

The couple bought their first art piece in 1964 using her modest teacher’s salary while Mr. Rubell was still in medical school. From there, they gradually built one of the world’s greatest private contemporary art collections. By her count, they have more than 7,000 pieces today and continue to add to their collection, the sole source of art on display in the museum.

“We probably collect about 100 pieces a year – some years more, some less,” she said. “Obviously, in 2020 it was less.”

The Rubells, who were pivotal in attracting Art Basel to Miami Beach and whose support helped put the area on the map as a top worldwide destination for art, take joy in their grander accomplishments. But the smaller, more intimate impacts are similarly fulfilling, she said.

“When people come to the museum and kids are inspired – artists – it’s a tremendous sense of satisfaction, sharing, having this ability to communicate and enjoy it with the public,” she said. “It’s a kind of giving back.”

Ms. Rubell spoke by phone with reporter Jesse Scheckner.

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