The Rubell Family Collection (RFC) was established in 1964 in New York City, shortly after its founders Donald and Mera Rubell were married. It is now one of the world’s largest, privately owned contemporary art collections.In Miami, Florida, since 1993, the RFC is exhibited within a 45,000-square-foot facility and is publicly accessible. Today, their son Jason also plays an active role in the collection.
UGL.: Which was the first work of art you bought, that you cherish until today and why?
Mera Rubell: We cherish all the works we buy.
UGL.: Do you and your husband always decide together about the purchase of a piece?
Mera Rubell: Yes. And we only buy if there’s a complete consensus. It’s been that way for 50 years, and for a long time, the decisions involve not only my husband and myself but also my son Jason. This dynamic generates lots of conversation, lots of debate, and lots of excitement.
UGL.: Where did the two of you most fundamentally disagree and why?
Mera Rubell: At times, we disagree on scale. Jason and I are more involved in the logistics of the Collection, how works are stored, handled, etc. Because Don isn’t as involved in those aspects, conceptually he isn’t scared by a sculpture that has 30 parts. He can get carried away by the scale of objects. But it’s good for the three of us to engage in these challenges.
UGL.: What do you envision your collection to be in 15 years?
Mera Rubell: I hope that Collection never becomes just an institution that presents art. I hope that it is constantly acquiring new and young artists and that it keeps moving forward. I hope that my children and grandchildren continue this ambition. I feel like we are giving them a gift that has given us so much pleasure. Our primary interests have always been in committing to young artists and in sharing art with the public.
UGL.: Daniel Birnbaum said at the opening of the Swedish pavillion in Venice this year, 'art looks different in different parts of the world'. You just came back from extended studio visits in China - what do you think about the art there? Or: Is it possible to make contemporary art - after the case of Ai Weiwei - without real freedom of speech which is very important for the Western art discourse?
Mera Rubell: No matter where artists are, they have limitations; life has limitations. Art is a way of dealing with those limitations. Freedom of speech is fundamental to art, as freedom is fundamental to existence. China is a whole new world to us, and we’ve loved getting to know artists there. And the way we experience art there is different from the way we experience that same art in another context. For example, every time we go to Europe and see American art, it has a very different meaning.