The Rubells started collecting in 1964 on a budget of $25 a week, and their limited resources led them to focus on newer artists who were at the time unknown. Visiting the studios of rising artists is a tradition that they continue to this day. The Rubells don’t buy to sell, and, somewhat controversially, they don’t buy to donate to museums either. “In 50 years of collecting, we’ve put together over 5,000 pieces and we’ve sold less than 20,” Don Rubell once told the New York Times. Their massive collection of contemporary art, which includes works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker, and Andy Warhol, is housed in a 45,000-square-foot private museum in Miami, where they often unveil new shows during Art Basel Miami Beach every December. “The heart of the matter is that art saved my life,” Mera Rubell said during a panel at the SP-Arte fair in São Paulo in 2015. “The fact of the matter is that it saved our marriage, it brought us together, it saved our family, because it’s constantly teaching us about who we are and somehow giving hope that there’s a future.”
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