Keeping up with the Rubells

Alright, I’ll admit it: I get google alerts about art and culture as a way to keep me up to date with what’s going on in the art and museum world in DC (and also to help me get ideas for this blog). So I’m going through this past week’s alerts, and I swear every other article is about Mera Rubell, one of her museums, one of her hotels or one of her exhibitions.  Now, for those of you reading this that don’t know who Mera Rubell is – well, you’re too far gone for my help. Head right on back to that rock you’ve been living under.

But for those of you who do know who I’m talking about – it’s clear that this woman and her husband, Don, have invaded and are recreating the DC art scene.  In 2009, she did a tour of artists’ studios in DC that was highly covered by the Washington Post as part of a project for Washington Project for the Arts (WPA). Last year, the Rubells bought property in SW Washington from the Corcoran Gallery with plans to build a luxury hotel and apartments with a museum next door to house part of their incredible collection of contemporary art.  Just a few weeks ago, the first major art fair ever in DC was held at the Rubell’s Capitol Skyline Hotel, also in SW.  And to top it off, the Rubells donated all of the works and curated the new show that just opened up at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 30 Americans. Seriously, I don’t think this woman sleeps.

What I find most interesting, however, is the attitude about museums that the Rubells seem to have.  To them, it is not just about exhibiting interesting, provocative, educational, or beautiful works of art.  Showing these works is extremely important, but their work is just as much about social justice as it is about art. In one of the first articles that came out about the new museum in DC, Mera Rubell was quoted as saying, “This is a story of urban renewal … It’s about having faith and allowing yourself to dare to imagine a future.” She has embraced the new role of the museum in society completely, and I believe that this new idea stands at odds with many of the more traditional museums in the city.

As I understand it, the new hotel and apartments in DC will act as an endowment for the museum, and all three will (supposedly) help revive a neighborhood that has struggled in the past.  It is their hope that they can do for this neighborhood in SW Washington what they did for Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood in the past.

While I’m still a little unsure about the entire project, I am excited to see what’s coming.  Will there be a clash between the old and new museology in DC? Will the public embrace an outsider coming in who wants to “fix” all that is wrong in DC (not just artistically, but socially as well)? I honestly don’t know. But DC will be the place to be in terms of the art and museums in the coming years, and I don’t plan on missing it.


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