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Time Capsule, Age 13 to 21: The Contemporary Art Collection of Jason Rubell

August 23, 2012 – January 06, 2013

I feel like art is such an amazing vehicle of communication, it's just an amazing international communication tool. … That’s why it has survived forever.

Jason Rubell
During a gallery tour, Rubell stops to talk about Christopher Wool’s 1988 untitled work. Photo by J Caldwell.
During a gallery tour, Rubell stops to talk about Christopher Wool’s 1988 untitled work. Photo by J Caldwell.

The Nasher Museum presented an exhibition of contemporary art assembled in 1991 by Jason Rubell, one of today’s most noted collectors, back when he was a senior at Duke University.

Rubell’s senior project opened 21 years ago at the former Duke University Museum of Art and traveled to 10 other university museums. The exhibition was recreated at the Nasher Museum.

Time Capsule included work by 53 artists, including George Condo, Keith Haring, Jenny Holtzer, Mike Kelly, Jeff Koons, Cady Noland, Gerhard Richter and Cindy Sherman.

Visitors pause in a gallery during a Free Family Day event. Photo by J Caldwell.
Nancy A. Nasher, chair of the Nasher Museum's Board of Advisors, pauses to chat in the gallery with Chief Curator Trevor Schoonmaker (middle) and Jason Rubell, also a member of the Board of Advisors. Photo by J Caldwell.
Nancy A. Nasher, chair of the Nasher Museum's Board of Advisors, pauses to chat in the gallery with Chief Curator Trevor Schoonmaker (middle) and Jason Rubell, also a member of the Board of Advisors. Photo by J Caldwell.

“This dynamic exhibition proves that Jason Rubell has a terrific eye for identifying artists before they became famous. Though most of these works are from the ‘80s, the ideas expressed are still relevant and fresh as ever,” said Kimerly Rorschach, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum. “The world knows Jason from his work in Miami, where he and his family collect art and present public exhibitions from the Rubell Family Collection. But it all started when he was a student here at Duke.”

The exhibition included paintings, works on paper, photography, sculpture and video art.

“It’s exciting to bring Jason’s early collection back to Duke,” said Trevor Schoonmaker, Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Collector of Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum. “I hope that Jason’s passion for contemporary art at such a young age comes through and inspires others to begin collecting.”

A Teen-Age Collector

A young visitor takes in Keith Haring’s works on paper. Photo by J Caldwell.
A young visitor takes in Keith Haring’s works on paper. Photo by J Caldwell.

Rubell’s parents, Don and Mera, began collecting art in 1964. Through his parents, Rubell met and began a friendship with the artist Keith Haring in 1980. Haring designed his bar mitzvah invitation and gave him a Masonite work, Untitled, which inspired the 13-year-old to start his own collection.

Jason Rubell earned money to buy art by stringing tennis rackets for friends and members of the East River Tennis Club in Long Island City, N.Y. That early collection was “a group of objects that I crammed into my bedroom for my own visual pleasure,” Rubell said, in an essay about the exhibition.

As an art history major at Duke, Rubell was challenged by his professor, Kristine Stiles (now Duke’s France Family professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies) to thoroughly analyze and critique the work he had collected, and think of it as a collection. The result was an exhibition and illustrated catalogue with Rubell’s own critical essays. “This early curatorial experience,” Rubell wrote, “helped shape who I am as a collector.”

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