The Rubell Museum DC has Recently Opened - Check it out!

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties DC AB15253

The newest addition to the art museums in Washington is the Rubell Museum DC, related to the Rubell Museum in Miami.  The new Rubell Museum DC welcomes visitors through a beautiful glass entryway that leads to an open space with wall-to-wall works of art. Sunlight streams through giant windows, creating grid patterns that warm the rooms. The space is understated yet bold, with white walls contrasted by art emphasizing bright colors and sharp designs.   Totaling 32,000 square feet, the museum preserves the original layout of the historic school.

What were once classrooms and teachers’ offices have been transformed into galleries with artwork that provides perspectives, insights, and commentary on contemporary ideas and issues. The adaptive reuse of the building also retains the school’s 4,000-square-foot auditorium, a sweeping space for the presentation of ambitious, large-scale artworks and performances. The museum’s new glass pavilion entrance will feature a bakery, bookstore, and terrace that will serve as a beacon for the community.

Dedicated exclusively to contemporary art, the Rubell Museum DC reinvigorates the 1906 building of the former Randall Junior High School, a historically Black public school in Southwest DC that ceased operations in 1978. The Rubells want the converted schoolhouse to feel like a neighborhood museum — the $15 admission fee is waived for D.C. residents. (The privately owned, publicly accessible museum is open Wednesday through Sunday.)  And while they welcome the work of local artists, the Rubells will not necessarily emphasize geography.

Don and Mera Rubell have been actively collecting for more than 50 years. They first started collecting art in 1964, soon after they were married.  Mera was a Head Start teacher and Don was in medical school.  They designated a modest amount to collect art ($25, a quarter out of Mera’s weekly teacher’s salary). The limited resources they had available at the time led them to focus on newer and unknown artists. Since the beginning of their collecting days, the Rubells collecting practice has followed a distinct intuitive method, and their funds have come from the family business (Don is a retired gynecologist who ventured into the boutique hotel and real estate business (Rubell Hotels)).

Rubell Museum painting

The Rubells collecting style has remained consistent throughout the decades and has set them apart from other high-profile collectors. Before acquiring a piece, the couple usually makes several studio visits seeking to establish an emotional connection with the artist and their work. If they are captured by the work, they tend to acquire more works as they follow the artist's career. Don once said: “There is no such thing as a great young artist… There are only artists with potential.”

This method allowed the Rubells to create relationships with famous artists before they made it big. For instance, they were among the first to acquire work by contemporary artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cecily Brown, Keith Haring, Rashid Johnson, Hayv Kahraman, Jeff Koons, William Kentridge, Yoshitomo Nara, Cindy Sherman, Mickalene Thomas, and George Condo.

A painting by Kehinde Wiley, the painter of Barack Obama's official portrait, in Miami is another example of wise purchasing ahead of the curve.

The Rubells also have a longstanding connection to Washington.  In 2002, they bought the Capitol Skyline Hotel, a block from the museum on I Street. Mera has been involved with the Washington Project for the Arts, a nonprofit organization that supports artists in   the D.C. area.

When I visited the Rubell Museum in Miami last year, my daughter started talking to a woman with greying hair sitting cross legged on the desk in the entry area to the museum.  Upon hearing that my daughter was from Washington, the woman told her that there was a new museum opening in Washington.  From the proprietary way that she was talking about the museum, I suspected that this was indeed Mera Rubell.  My guess was correct and so the three of us chatted for a few minutes about her new museum about to open in DC.  The featured photo for this post is a picture of my daughter and her fiance in front of the Keith Haring painting in Miami. 

The museum is open now, and I look forward to spending more time in it.


Comments (24)

Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

What an interesting story, Lise, about this new museum from the first sentence to the last. I'm sure your daughter won't ever forget meeting Mera Rubell... so rare that any of us get a similar opportunity in all aspects of life.

Jan 19, 2023 04:21 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

What an interesting overview of this new museum, and how it came to be. Very nice!

Jan 19, 2023 05:18 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Kat Palmiotti - it is a great addition to Washington, and I am very excited to have it here!


Jan 19, 2023 05:32 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Nina Hollander, Broker - another thing for you to do when you get to Washington!  I am looking forward to spending lots of time there.

Jan 19, 2023 05:33 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker

Lise Howe at this stage... I might need to move back to DC for at least a month! :)

Jan 19, 2023 07:51 AM
Brian England
Arizona Focus Realty - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

It sounds like the Rubell museum has a lot of interesting things to see, I am sure people will want to check it out.

Jan 19, 2023 05:33 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400 - it made the visit to Miami so much more interesting - and it is a fantastic museum! 

Jan 19, 2023 05:36 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Michael Jacobs - Hope you can come to DC sometime and see it! Thanks for the comments

Jan 19, 2023 05:37 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Endre Barath, Jr. - what I really liked was that one of the most successful collectors in the US was just sitting cross legged on the desk in the entry to the museum talking to people coming to visit 

Jan 19, 2023 05:39 AM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Dorie Dillard Austin TX- the museum in Miami is fascinating - they have so many great artists there that they bought back before they were "famous" - it is really a lesson in American contemporary art.  The museum here in DC is a fabulous addition

Jan 19, 2023 05:40 AM
Lawrence "Larry" & Sheila Agranoff. Cell: 631-805-4400
The Top Team @ Charles Rutenberg Realty 255 Executive Dr, Plainview NY 11803 - Plainview, NY
Long Island Condo and Home Specialists

Oh I like this idea very much...galleries' with artwork. Meeting the owner - How very exciting!

Jan 19, 2023 08:37 AM
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello Lise Howe and great information to share with us here in the Rain.  Make it a great Thursday!

Jan 19, 2023 09:06 AM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Yes agreed low key not being pretentious....there is so much value to that over the entitled types, Endre

Jan 19, 2023 10:47 AM
Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Sounds like a great place to while away time. We have still not completed all the areas of the Smithsonian

Jan 19, 2023 01:45 PM
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

You're lucky to have access to so many wonderful cultural places and events!  It's something we lack here on Maui, but we're not complaining.

Jan 19, 2023 01:54 PM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Lise, looks like a wonderful museum experience, and although I don't usually do many, I think I would visit this one!

Jan 19, 2023 04:13 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Hi Lise- what a wonderful local post!!! This is so much better than what we could find in brochures or hand outs. The Rubells definitely had an eye for art. 

Jan 19, 2023 05:13 PM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

This is good information to share with area residents and visitors.

Jan 20, 2023 07:33 AM
Marcus Anderson - Santa Monica, CA
Mortgage Broker & Agent | Westside Los Angeles, CA

Great post and awesome photos! I used to go visit Northwest Washington DC growing up. I haven't been back in so long. 

Jan 21, 2023 01:32 PM
John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Hello Lise Howe thank you for sharing the opening of Rubell Museum in DC is an excellent museum to visit. Have a wonderful week!

Jan 22, 2023 11:08 AM
Hannah Williams
HomeStarr Realty - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-820-3376

Great post-Lise Howe I caught this on a re-blog by Roy Kelley . What an amazing museum and how special that the fee is waived for local residents 

Jan 23, 2023 01:42 PM