When you first think about art collectors, do bar mitzvah age boys come to mind? No, not for most people. But, to Duke alum (T ’91), Jason Rubell, there seemed no better way to spend birthday or holiday money as a young teen than to purchase art. Living in a decade of phenomenal contemporary art growth, Rubell spent eight years assembling what would serendipitously become his senior project in 1990 — A Duke Student Collects: Contemporary Art from Jason Rubell. Twenty-one years later, the impressive conglomerate of over eighty works of art returns to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University as Time Capsule, Age 13 to 21: The Contemporary Art Collection of Jason Rubell.
“As the son of contemporary art collectors, Jason Rubell spent a fair amount of his childhood at gallery openings and museum exhibitions,” she writes. “By the time he was a teenager, Rubell started buying artwork that caught his eye, using money he’d made stringing tennis rackets. But he never thought of himself as a collector until his senior year at Duke.”
You might think that the title of the exhibition — “Time Capsule Age 13 to 21: The Contemporary Art Collection of Jason Rubell” — can’t be right, that a collection of contemporary art featuring artists like Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Sol LeWitt and Francesco Clemente couldn’t have been compiled by a kid between the ages of 13 and 21, but that’s exactly what this exhibition is.
For all the daring and vigor of How Soon Now, the Rubell Family Collection’s most surprising move might be Time Capsule, the 20th anniversary installation of Jason Rubell’s senior curatorial project first exhibited at the Duke University Museum of Art in 1991. The exhibition, which Jason curated with the advising of Kristine Stiles includes 53 artists fitted into a tight space, and offers a portrait of the collector as a young man and offers insight into how the Rubell Family Collection ever came to be.