The BMW Art Guide Takes Us on a Journey to Miami’s Rubell Museum

The BMW Art Guide is like a “Lonely Planet of Private Collections.” At least that’s how Christian Kaspar Schwarm, founder of the digital platform Independent Collectors, put it in an interview with ARTnews earlier this year. The guide features 270 private collections from around the world. Tucked away in metropolises like Tokyo or off the beaten path in quaint towns like Aschaffenburg, there are a few collectors who have agreed to open their doors to the public. The BMW Art Guide offers audiences a unique chance to view works that have been in private hands for years. 

The team behind BMW Art Guide has also launched a film series to explore some of the jaw-dropping locales the guide suggests. They’ve traveled to Hong Kong, Vienna, Norway, France, and New York with local art enthusiasts to take in the stunning collections. In the latest video, curator Joey Lico takes over to visit the one-of-a-kind collection at the Rubell Museum in Miami, accompanied by Puerto Rican artist Alexis Diaz.

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Don and Mera Rubell began collecting 54 years ago, buying their first work through a monthly payment plan when the two were just starting out. Their keen art instincts led them to support internationally acclaimed artists early in their career, including Keith Haring, Yoshitomo Nara, and Jeff Koons. Years later, in 1993, the couple  decided to open the Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Arts Foundation to the public. Then in 2019, they went another step further, and created the Rubell Museum on a 100,000-square-foot campus in Wynwood, Miami. The museum is designed around a main “spine,” each room connected by parallel thresholds that make the place easy to navigate and enjoy.

Mera Rubell even makes an appearance in the video, discussing the museum’s design and her relationship with collecting and artists. “In our case, every work you see in this building, every work in this collection, is a result of a relationship,” Rubell says in the video. Her philosophy behind the collection is a holistic one. “It’s about the big picture,” she says. “It’s about the artist’s life. It’s about … what’s behind it?” Some 80 percent of the museum collection is accessible to the public so that visitors can enjoy the Rubells’ carefully curated holdings to the fullest. 

While Lico and Diaz are driving to the museum, they discuss the Wynwood district’s unique feel. Diaz, now based in Wynwood, is a muralist who, of course, relishes the neighborhood’s vibrant wall painting scene. “Something is happening here,” Diaz says in the video. “It’s artists from around the world, different places, different cultures, and you have the possibility to see all that in one place.” Diaz, for his part, appreciates the diverse community of artists, including heavy hitters like Shepard Fairey, Futura, and Kenny Scharf. Similarly, the Rubell Museum offers a chance to explore a wide range of talents in a single place. 

Diaz was particularly happy to see the 1990 Keith Haring piece Against All Odds at the Rubell. Though their styles differ greatly, it was the legend of Haring’s daring appropriation of public spaces that inspired Diaz to pursue his dream of becoming a muralist. They also viewed the Kehinde Wiley painting Sleep (2008) and Yayoi Kusama’s iconic Infinity Room: Let’s Survive Forever (2017), recently installed at the museum, which also holds Kusama’s Narcissus Garden (1966).

Lico says that Kusama’s Let’s Survive Forever “is meant to create an endless space. And what I love is that [Kusama] puts us right at the center of infinity.” Lico slyly advises resisting the urge to take a selfie while contemplating those cosmic proportions, admitting that Instagram has exposed masses of people to Kusama’s work. Her “Infinity Rooms” are ultimately generous artistic gestures, and that is exactly why they have had such enormous success. In the same way, the Rubell Museum is set to become a lodestar for Miami, as years of private work becomes a gift for all. 

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