Don and Mera Rubell met in 1962, when Don was a medical student and Mera was a teacher with New York’s first Head Start program. After marrying in 1964, they began collecting art on a budget of $25 a month. Between then and now they have helped launch the careers of artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring (who also became a close family friend) and have put together one of the largest and most impressive private collections of contemporary art in the world. The Rubell Family Collection is exhibited in Miami, Florida, in a 45,000-square-foot repurposed DEA confiscated goods facility. It features artists from around the globe, including Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Zhang Huan and Ai Weiwei.
Establishing a personal connection with artists has always been important to the Rubells, whose collecting habits are fueled by a genuine love for contemporary art. For that reason, studio visits are a fundamental step in the process.
“It’s completely inside of our practice as collectors,” says Mera Rubell. “There is something essential in the experience that we get visiting the studio.”
28 Chinese is the culmination of more than a decade’s worth of research, exploration and collecting. Between 2001 and 2012, the Rubells visited 100 artists’ studios in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Xi’an, ultimately purchasing works from 28 different artists.
“The nuances of China wouldn’t have become apparent through visits to contemporary Chinese exhibitions in Chelsea galleries,” said the Rubells’ son Jason Rubell. “It was vital to this project that we were able to touch, smell, hear, feel and taste something about China itself.”
28 Chinese offers a glimpse into the studio practices the Rubells most connected with. Though these artworks are only a sample of all that contemporary Chinese art has to offer, they represent some of the most notable Chinese artists working today. The exhibition will serve as a springboard for new audiences into the dynamic landscape of contemporary art in China.