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did you know that artnews magazine ranks don and mera rubell among the world's top 200 art collectors?

Post #610 • August 25, 2005, 11:43 AM • 49 Comments

You will, along with many other Rubell factoids, after reading this chummy chat that Alfredo Triff had with the Rubells for the Miami New Times.

This interview doesn't differ significantly in tone from the one that appears by Rubell curator Mark Coetzee in the dubiously titled Not Afraid, and follows a fawning review that Triff wrote about the dubiously titled At This Time show chez Rubell roughly eleven weeks ago.

Although it may never request my services again after this posting, I occasionally contribute to the New Times. I nevertheless feel obliged to point out that as writers tackling public matters in the art world, we owe it to the public to parse our subject accurately. By accurately, I mean that we have to take note of failures as well as successes.

Very few works of art, exhibitions thereof, or perpetrators of either fail 100%. Neither do they often succeed 100%. I'm not going to pick these New Times pieces apart, nor will I argue about the sincerity of anyone involved. I will however point out that statements like "I hope the neighborhood [Wynwood! Wynwood!] doesn't change" and "we surround ourselves with the environment to influence and experience contemporary issues," left unchallenged, come off as fatuous self-aggrandizement; a little even gets on the interviewer. Triff has top-flight training in picking these kinds of assertions apart, and lets them go to his discredit. With a recent review of the same entity that presented its subject as flawless, one for the record books, Triff should worry about using up his credibility, just as I'm probably burning his patience.




August 25, 2005, 1:08 PM

What? Art writing that doesn't meet the standard of muckraking investigative journalism?
What a shock!



August 25, 2005, 3:00 PM

yes but b/c we are local here matty, this has greater impact for us. i agree with you franklin 100% and have nothing to lose in saying so.



August 25, 2005, 3:06 PM

The young couple married two years later and began collecting art on a monthly budget of $25, gleaned from the modest salary Mera earned teaching at New York's first Head Start program.



August 25, 2005, 3:11 PM

You posted or linked that review back in June, I think, and I remarked that number one on the list of cliche forms in contemporary art is the pod, closely followed by the house on stilts, and that
Alfredo, in this review, generously supplied me with several more:

things lined up in rows
boats & vessels
and, coming up fast since Cattelan's suspended equine-nimity: horses.

The Rubells are fairly typical of the late 20th century collector of contemporary visual art. They all say the same things, centering around matters like market timing and "importance". They say "we follow the moods, the trends", "consensus is very complex", "Hernan is becoming an amazing artist in the world", "we don't look for controversial work for its own sake. It must be relevant", "those issues that are important to us as human beings", "We buy what changes the way we look at life", "A lot of the works that end up being shown are the most difficult for us, because they require us to make a quantum leap from what we thought to something else", "We buy things that change the way we are", "we surround ourselves with the environment to influence and experience contemporary issues", "How is contemporary art relevant for the world today".

It is all very self-important, self-serving, overdramatic, heavy, academic and dull. Art seems to be some sort of big-game hunt. Words like "joy" and "delight" and "pleasure" are nowhere to be seen. They talk of "discovering" all these artists, but the list of their "important" artists is so identical to that of all the other collectors around the world who have been busy "discovering" that it strains credulity. And, finally, the stuff they collect, is, well, silly. I'm sorry, It just is. Am I & so very few others really such a complete minority here? Does anyone else , when looking at this kind of thing, just simply think "this stuff is really silly?

Only Philistines like me and Dave Barry, I guess.



August 25, 2005, 3:17 PM

I'm not clear if the "[Wynwood! Wynwood!]" interjection is Alfredo's or Franklin's. I guess I'll just schlep down to the corner (in the rain!!) and grab a copy.

Haven't read the interview yet, but I'm sure part of Franklin's problem is that he doesn't enjoy the Rubell's collection and Alfredo does. On the other hand, the Rubells certainly have a few things to answer for, and I wonder why Alfredo wouldn't bring those things up. Even an interviewer sympathetic to his subject will ask some tough questions ("Your critics would say . . . how do you respond?").



August 25, 2005, 3:32 PM

So,what does "Top 200 Art Collectors" mean anyway? Are they ranked according to the quantity of pieces collected, the quality of pieces collected, the amount of money spent on pieces collected, the amount of column-inches of sloppy art writing devoted to justifying their collection...?



August 25, 2005, 3:40 PM

Old pro:

You have my agreement here. Most of the stuff they collect, as well as that puff piece by Triff, is silly.



August 25, 2005, 3:49 PM

hmm, sour grapes?



August 25, 2005, 3:55 PM

George, is your "sour grapes" accusation addressed to anyone in particular, or is it just the first line of one of your entertaining little poems?



August 25, 2005, 3:56 PM

Now, now, George, lets not start giving motives.



August 25, 2005, 3:59 PM

Stay dry, Alesh - the interjection is mine and the article is linked above. Again - I seem to have to point this out repeatedly - I'm not challenging Triff's sincerity. I challenge that everything is so rosy out in RubellLand that it bears no critique whatsoever. When I reviewed the Olitski deal at the Goldman's, I felt enormous allegiance to the subject and still found something to criticize.

Matty, you know, I haven't the foggiest idea. I assumed it was money spent but maybe someone laying out their millions on Smurfs doesn't qualify. Does anybody know the answer to that question?

Think what you like, George. You can't prove it and I can't disprove it.



August 25, 2005, 4:07 PM

Franklin, my assumption would also be that "Top 200" is based on money spent (although it could just as easily be based on 'current appraised value' as well). It seems like added journalistic sloppiness if the article itself doesn't clarify its headline. It could have been a reader poll, for all I know. Seems like these folks fail at even the most basic tests of journalistic integrity and credibility, no matter what one thinks about the veracity of their conclusions.

Needless to say, I'm not going to rush out to pick up a copy to try to figure it all out. I've read enough issues of ArtNews in the past to know to cancel my subscription.



August 25, 2005, 4:19 PM

Triff's earlier piece on the Rubell's "10 Miami Artists" show (see Artblog, June 2) may have been fawning, but it was scarcely a review. Here's what I said at the time:

As far as I'm concerned, it's a non-review, even though it qualifies as art journalism. There is precious little criticism in it, which is what I want and expect from a critic. What there is is alternately vague ("poetic"), evasive-noncommittal ("cryptic and angst-ridden"), facile-superficial ("cleverly framed"), and equivocal ("visually enticing" [for Naomi Fisher's trademark "asscrack ikebana" photos] which could mean "nice photos," "nice tropical plants" or "nice ass"). In some cases (Young, Lei Rodriguez and, notably, Bas, who was the star attraction), there is simply no way to tell what Triff thought of the quality of the work as such, which I find unacceptable. He must really have loved Jiae Hwang's drawings, for which he managed to venture "delicate, witty, and humorous;" I hope it wasn't too strenuous an exertion of opinion.

It's fine to talk about symbols and presumed thematic links between artists, but a critic of visual art must look at the work as a visual object and evaluate its success as such, which is crucial. If the work does not succeed that way, its intended or ascribed meaning makes little difference from the standpoint of visual art. That's why a good critic MUST have an exceptionally good eye, not just philosophical and/or intellectual proclivities. Image first, message after.

The new Rubell piece (2 full pages) starts with a half-page intro which could easily have been written by a PR person employed by the subjects. The subsequent interview is indeed reminiscent of the one by Coetzee in the Rubells' book, only Coetzee is their curator, so one could hardly expect him to scratch (let alone bite) the hand that feeds him. This is a puff piece, basically, which need not mean Triff was consciously ass-kissing. He may actually be as impressed as he sounds, which is more honorable, but none too reassuring.



August 25, 2005, 4:42 PM

All this being such a Miami-regional thing, it obviously doesn't have as much resonance for me, up here in the Great White North. But, I decided I had to read the New Times article... and actually, it reads exactly like the uncritical art writing that ,up here at least, passes as the norm.

My favorite line has to be one of the earliest ones...
The collection comprises in excess of 5000 pieces, spans more than 30 years of art history, and represents such movements as Minimalism, Neo-Expressionism, Neo-Geo, Identity Politics, and New Tendencies -- a dream of an art display featuring every possible medium, including sculptures, videos, photos, paintings, and installations.

The list of 'movements' in their collection is hilarious. Normally one would have to look in a public toilet to find a collection of 'movements' so varied and noteworthy.
With writing of this sort, I find the trick to appreciation is to read between the lines to find the REAL critique... for instance, it says in the above excerpt that this isn't an 'art display'... this is "a dream of an art display'... a subtle distinction, but one that gets to the heart of it all, I think.



August 25, 2005, 4:47 PM

Matty; damn that was funny, my sides....'movements'.... you never fail me!!



August 25, 2005, 6:44 PM

My server just had a 70-minute outage unrelated to Hurricane Katrina. Things are up and running again.



August 25, 2005, 6:52 PM

I'll stick with my observations.

First of all you have to give the Rubells credit and in my opinion, respect, for the commitment they have made over the years to collecting art. I quoted a line earlier describing their beginning as collectors, it was a small amount of money but a big commitment, this I find deserving of respect. As artists, we require an audience, the Rubells are a part of the audience and they make it possible for others to experience the artworks as well, thus expanding the audience.

Now, I have no problem that many of you will choose to dismiss most of the works in their collection, that is the prerogative of taste. What I find troublesome is the closed mindedness, the inability to think beyond some obvious confine and fail to see the extended ramifications of a problem. In this case, I would suggest that the very existence of the Rubell collection, as a demonstration of their passion for art, must give other collectors encouragement to pursue their passions as well. Maybe these other collectors will be the ones who make your work visible. This is not all occurring in a vacuum events are linked in time and space. This blog is not only read by a few in Florida, it is read from all over the country.

Matty, I'm not sure what you are inferring when you bring up the "dream of an art display" What is the problem here. I would infer that it indicates the process is not yet complete.
Further, I find the fact that they are attempting to create a collection which represents the era both valid and interesting.

Franklin, regarding my "sour grapes" comment. I'll agree it's an inference on my part. I'm sitting here at the computer, thinking to myself, "Hmm, if I was in the encyclopedic ****** collection of contemporary art, would I be complaining?" or "If ****** wrote favorably about my work, would I be complaining?"
Of course the answer would be "yes" for Clyfford Still. For most of the rest, one can admit to being left out and deal with it the best one can.



August 25, 2005, 7:19 PM

Matty, I'm not sure what you are inferring when you bring up the "dream of an art display"

Gosh George, I thought the joke was fairly obvious, but since you asked, what I meant to do was to humourously characterize the Rubes as having a 'fantasy' of an art collection, or possibly the 'illusion' of an art collection ('dream' being synonymous with 'fantasy' or 'illusion'... get it?)

Like I said though, I was just joking... no matter how bad it is, art is still art (there's the lesson of the ****** again), and even an art collection made up entirely of bad art is still an art collection.
If I wasn't joking, I would have merely said that instead of calling the collection a 'dream', the word 'nightmare' might be more accurate.



August 25, 2005, 7:27 PM

There's respecting, and then there's genuflecting. Occasionally I feel like I'm living in an art-world version of the Stepford Wives, where some candid observations that everything isn't perfect invite censure. Some kind of similar conformity is a part of it too, but the power just blinked off so I'll send this now. Soon it may be time for tuna fish by candlelight...



August 25, 2005, 7:35 PM

To all the dear Miamians(?) out there in blogland,
Take care of yourselves, beware of Katrina (and the waves).



August 25, 2005, 10:21 PM

Isnt this discussion alot like the Peggy Guggenheim one a week ago??
about money and taste and hiring a "human-seeing-eye-person" who can tell them what to buy!! So it could be their taste or the fate of hooking up with someone they were convinced has an eye for art and Voila!! the collection.
I think its alot like OP said earlier. I see it as less about real art/pleasure in art and more about keeping tabs on whos selling and for how much and whos hot and whos not...a kindof keeping up with the Jones's in the contemporary art world.


ms quoted

August 25, 2005, 10:43 PM

Top 200 art collectors! Do they get to go to a luncheon all together or get commemerative tea cups or matching berets?

Oh the shame of being 201st.



August 25, 2005, 11:03 PM

I have an idea....we need a Top 200 Artists.....Im first and Ahab is second and Matty is 3rd ...hehehehe



August 26, 2005, 4:52 AM

is it possible the Rubel's collect work they honestly and sincerely believe in? are they ridiculed here because they're not out there collecting Pollack or Picasso like the rest of the world? oh, i know, collector's only have good taste when they buy up Modern masterpieces, right? but the Rubel's have made the mistake of liking what? Hannah Wilke? work that changes the way they think about the world? how shameful! don't they know art is for looking at and not thinking about!?

give me a fucking break.



August 26, 2005, 1:47 PM

To craigfrancis, point by point:
is it possible the Rubel's collect work they honestly and sincerely believe in?
Of course it's possible. I'd say it's even likely. I've got a friend who collects dolls based on the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" TV show... does he honestly and sincerely like them? Of course! Am I still going to make fun of him for it? You bet! You see, Sincerity unfortunately does nothing to negate Ignorance.

are they ridiculed here because they're not out there collecting Pollack or Picasso like the rest of the world?
Like the rest of the world? Ah, if only we lived in such a world, all of us with our Pollocks and Picassos hanging on the walls... but, back to reality. I think they're being ridiculed because they have what, to many eyes, appears to be a shitty collection of art. They have developed a collection without developing their taste. Maybe your eyes tell you different (or, maybe you don't think LOOKING is important in VISUAL art).

oh, i know, collector's only have good taste when they buy up Modern masterpieces, right?
Wrong again. That's silly. They could collect work from any number of artistic movements throughout art history, not just Modernism, and show their good taste. They could also collect work by contemporary artists who don't suck. Unfortunately though, they choose to do otherwise.

but the Rubel's have made the mistake of liking what? Hannah Wilke? work that changes the way they think about the world?
Good question: who the fuck IS Hannah Wilke? I entered her name in google image search, but it only came up the same 70's kitch amateur nudie photos. The Rubes may SAY that the work "changes the way they think about the world", but I'm gonna need a little proof of that before I jump to believe them. They may sincerely believe it, but that doesn't mean they might not be wrong.

how shameful! don't they know art is for looking at and not thinking about!?
No, I guess they don't. You're is a shame.

give me a fucking break.
No breaks for you. At least not from me.



August 26, 2005, 4:16 PM

matty: thank you. that is just what i want from you. for me, this blog has been useful as a tool by which i can learn more about art. you're helping. i also appreciate, given our tussles of the past, that you didn't just call me an idiot and leave it at that.

how does one prove the way they look at the world has been changed?

were you being serious about Hannah Wilke?



August 26, 2005, 5:21 PM

Oh Matty Matty Matty, that stings..hehehe....'or, maybe you dont think LOOKING is important in VISUAL art'. ohhh, just for that you go to the top of my 200 best artists..past Ahab and I still LOVE the Blue One..hehehe


jack mi affa

August 26, 2005, 5:32 PM

i agree w/george.
what if the rubells had no collection
then you all would be complaining that they should etc........


mz. crabby

August 26, 2005, 7:06 PM

why is it that i often get the feeling that some art collectors become "collectors" because of the status and celebrity (albeit in a very small world) they acheive in lives that would otherwise be boring, or at best, conventional.



August 26, 2005, 7:51 PM

We spoke about this earlier concerning Peggy Guggenheim and other wealthy patrons and their place in the art world. I also think Jack had a lot of solid arguements that I actually agree with. The respect is there for the collectors who have a deep love of art and an education to back it up. And that the ones who are looking for the cachet that 'art' and 'buying' will give them are just fakes and seen as that.
If someone needs to collect out of a ego driven desire for prestige then its just sad and has nothing to do with art....and has everything to do with with a social ladder and keeping up with the Rubes'.



August 26, 2005, 8:46 PM

A curator from the Rubells' told me "Don" doesn't care about the art he already has, he desires what he doesn't have, and once he buys it he forgets about it. You have to feel sorry for him.



August 26, 2005, 10:11 PM

My power's back on, thank God. There are some very hefty fallen tree portions, mostly from city trees, all around my house and all over the neighborhood. The naively expected fleets of city trucks to clean up the mess have yet to appear (maybe next Monday, after residents themselves have spent 3 days sawing, dragging, and neatly piling up plant debris roadside).

I trust it's clear that #29 above is not from me. I'd never complain that anybody, no matter how rich, didn't collect art. That would be like complaining that such a person didn't buy a sports team or didn't breed racehorses. The issue is not that rich people don't buy art, but rather why and how they go about it, as well as the impact they have on the art world, which is all too often negative (I am not, obviously, speaking for the art dealers or artists being patronized).



August 26, 2005, 10:46 PM

Jack we all knew it wasnt you, glad you didnt blow away.



August 26, 2005, 11:07 PM

Jack's reference to #29 is now #28, because of the deletion of our persistent Indian comment spammer. How do you say "get lost" in Hindi?


Alfredo Triff

August 26, 2005, 11:30 PM

F. Thanks for all the attention. Not much to add to the chat, save that between me and you -and your friends here- there’s a huge aesthetic and social rift, which concerns contemporary art, Miami and a lots of other things. Don’t worry about me, buddy, worry about yourself.



August 26, 2005, 11:34 PM

Duel At Dawn.......choice of weapons; paintbrush or pen?



August 26, 2005, 11:53 PM

They say money cant buy love...well it also cant buy taste.



August 27, 2005, 12:16 AM

cf post #26:
how does one prove the way they look at the world has been changed?
Hmm... that's a good question. It does seem difficult, doesn't it? Obviously, we can't just take a reported change in worldview and accept it uncritically, because the person reporting such a change may be lying, or may be mistaken. Perhaps it might be best to put such statements aside, as they are therefore unable to communicate anything conclusive and meaningful to anyone outside of the person reporting them... what do you think?

were you being serious about Hannah Wilke?
Hmmm... tough to say... I didn't really say much about her, did I? I did seriously enter her name in the google image search, and yep, it seriously came up with a lot of low quality smut (and a few head-shots of a sick old woman).



August 27, 2005, 1:29 AM

Franklin, I sure hope that the New Times welcomes disagreement and dissent, rather than demanding conformity of opinion to some presupposed social correctness. I would expect the editors of any rag worth reading (or writing for) to recognize the necessity of publishing divergent, even opposing, ideas - unless its management feels the publication's readership isn't intelligent enough to discern for themselves which of two juxtaposed opinions is the more convincing or interesting or honest. Though it is a lot to hope for, I have the same expectation of advertisers in said rag.

Alfredo Triff, Franklin implies in his opening post that your writing still holds the promise of credibility, rather than the reverse; and he asks that you continue to apply the high standard of critical reportage that he expects to see from you, even when writing about wealthy, trendy, clout-wielding patrons of the farts such as the Rubells. Frankly, Franklin's credibility is much more intact than yours, as he's been able to link to clear examples which back up his criticism of your writing, while you've just now danced in and out without saying anything, but "oh yeah buddy, well, your mother!"

Alfredo Triff, how would you characterize this "huge aesthetic and social rift, which concerns contemporary art, Miami and a lots of other things" that you name but don't identify? I may be familiar with the rift you speak of from my particular side of the chasm - but what does it look like from yours?



August 27, 2005, 1:52 AM

Sawing and dragging can be quite fun, Jack, when you get to use gas-powered machinery. It's all the piling debris in neat piles that is so tedious and draining. I'm relieved Hurricane Katrina has left you all alright, you and Franklin and Alfredo Triff, as the thread seems to indicate. Especially Franklin, because I'm going to need this little slice of the web during the feared Labour Day (Labor Day) snowstorm. Snow doesn't saw or drag so well, and neat piles make neat homes.



August 27, 2005, 3:53 AM

Ahab its still summer, lets stay in denial awhile longer , plz dont speak of snow yet.



August 27, 2005, 12:21 PM

Well, Ahab, with the help of the neighbors, who might as well be lumberjacks compared to me, my yard is now tolerably clear. I guess they felt sorry for me pruning away at some huge chunk of tree, so they came over with their power tools and made short work of the thing. Sometimes, being aesthetically inclined just doesn't cut it.

Don't bother about Triff; there's no point. His response, such as it is, is par for the course. He knows we're not the "right" crowd, so he can comfortably blow us off. As long as he's in good standing with the Rubells and their set, he himself is set. In other words, he can do without our approval--as he will indeed have to.


Jerome du Bois

August 27, 2005, 1:52 PM


In another universe, you didn't go to RISD and become an artist and teacher and blogger in Florida. Instead, you inherited, say, a couple of taxis, which you turned into a fleet, and you became rich, and fell in love with art, and a woman who loved art, and amassed a great collection of things you both loved. Or liked. Or liked for awhile and got sick of. Or just bought and sold, like free Americans do.

And along comes another Franklin, from yet another universe, who still works for the Miami New Times. You grant him an interview, and his first question is:

"How can you possibly justify owning anything by the Chapman Brothers?"

You'd need a Bowie knife to cut the envy on this blog.


Jerome du Bois



August 27, 2005, 4:17 PM

JdB (#43) is right, of course, as he invariably is. The reason for any and all criticism is envy, and no other explanation should even be considered. He is also privileged with the ability to peer into the hearts and minds of all people, so that he knows exactly why and whereof they speak, and it is futile to contradict him. Everyone's motives are an open book to him. Therefore, should anyone feel like arguing with him, on this or any other point, don't waste the time or the blog space. He has made his pronouncement, and that's all there is to it.



August 27, 2005, 10:44 PM

Jerome, there is no envy from this corner.

When you give other people motives you are talking about yourself.



August 28, 2005, 12:04 AM

Well, I might as well confess: I love the Rubell place--as a space, that is (the bathrooms are also pretty nifty). I like wandering around the facility aimlessly, thinking stuff like "Gee, this is so much nicer than MAM and MOCA" or "Everything is so white and clean, and the climate control is to die for." Trouble is, I'm supposed to be there for the art, not just the atmosphere--and the art, by and large, isn't up to the setting.

All that money, connections, opportunities, time, effort and drive, and for what? Certainly the Rubells are very happy with the results, and there's no shortage of people tripping all over themselves to pay homage (sincere or opportunistic, as the case may be). The collection is a model of orthodoxy, impeccably faithful to current art establishment dogma, and the level of corresponding piety is very High Church (of Basel). They should probably consider having incense waft in through the AC vents. Of course, if they did that, I'd probably be there all the time.



August 28, 2005, 1:56 AM

Of course, comments that blithely chalk up the criticisms on this blog to simple envy misunderstand the international context which frames this debate. For instance, while the Rube's may be a big deal to the local Miami audience (and ArtNews, lest we forget!), they are simply nothing to me, where I live.
They may as well not exist in fact, as far as my possible envy is concerned. Speaking only for myself (as always) whether they and their collection are real, or theoretical, makes no difference to me, as I type this. The specific fact of whether my work is in, or out, of their collection is so seperate from my reality as to be practically irrelevant.



August 28, 2005, 12:58 PM

I think Im very intuitive and not once have I ever sensed any envy here on this blog, not ever. That comment from jerome is just simply childish.
And as Matty has said quite well, the Rubes could be on another planet for all it means to "US". On a personal note, I love seeing and supporting (buying.....I have dibs on the Blue One) new artists and their work and I think Im not alone in this. That said, my Ego is quite healthy and can stand on its own when it comes to my work, thank you very much Jerome.
Glad to see you didnt get blow out to sea


Earl Bronsteen

August 31, 2005, 3:45 PM

If you want to read a very fuuny spoof of art collectors like the Rubells read the Ebook "How To Become A Famous Contemporary Artist." at
Zeke's loved it.



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