Bloomberg News

Miami Collectors Tap New China Artists for Art Basel Show

April 23, 2013

'The Death of Marat'

"The Death of Marat" (2011) by He Xiangyu. The work will be included in "Year of the Artist," an upcoming exhibition at the Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Arts Foundation in Miami. Source: Rubell Family Collection via Bloomberg

The influential Miami-based collectors Mera and Don Rubell will focus on contemporary Chinese art in their next exhibition for the 2013 Art Basel Miami Beach in December.

Titled “Year of the Artist,” the show will include stars like Ai Weiwei and Zhang Huan among about 25 artists, though the goal is to introduce many less-known names to the U.S.

“There’s a new generation of Chinese artists that is interesting to us,” said Mera Rubell in a telephone interview. “They have the world view and they are also dealing with the transformation of China itself.”

While the generation of artists who came of age during the Cultural Revolution has dominated the market in the 2000s, younger artists are starting to gain international attention.

The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing opened its 2013 season with “ON/OFF: China’s Young Artists in Concept and Practice” which includes 50 commissioned works by 50 artists. Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk will mount an exhibition titled “China China” at his Kiev art center next month that focuses on both younger and older artists.

The Rubells, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next year, have been collecting emerging art for decades. They bought their first photograph by Cindy Sherman for $25 and paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat for $2,500. They are known for their trend-setting exhibitions, such as those focusing on Leipzig, Polish or black artists in the past decade.

Paving Way

“It’s a vote of confidence,” said Larry Warsh, New York- based collector of Chinese contemporary art. “It’s important that collectors like the Rubells pave the way in understanding Chinese art in the context of global contemporary art.”

The Rubells visited China six times in the past 12 years. With their last trip, in the fall of 2012, taking in more than 40 artist studios in Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Guangzhou and Hangzhou.

“We took planes, trains, vans,” said Mera Rubell. “It was like a caravan.”

The couple spoke about the exhibition yesterday at a New York University diplomacy class taught by François Barras, Ambassador and Consul General of Switzerland.

“We are going to make every attempt to bring every artist to Miami for the opening,” Mera Rubell told the students, although not Ai, who is currently prohibited from leaving China.

At least two of his works will be included: his “Ton of Tea” sculpture, in which tea leaves are pressed to form a cube, and “Fairytale Chairs,” a group of 20 wooden Qing dynasty chairs.

“It’s going to be the culmination of the Chinese art we’ve been buying since 2001,” said Mera Rubell.

Muse highlights include Rich Jaroslovsky on books, James S. Russell on architecture, Jeremy Gerard on theater.

To contact the reporters of this story: Katya Kazakina in New York at kkazakina@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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