For the last couple of months, we’ve been experiencing a bit of an arty moment here in the style department. First, a recent group field trip to the opening for Barkley Hendricks’ awesomely style-altering, mind-altering retrospective at the Studio Museum of Harlem gave us fashion butterflies that we hadn’t felt in years, and now down at Art Basel the Rubell Family’s awe-inspiring collection of art from thirty contemporary African-American artists, sponsored by Puma, has us completely floored.
Mera and Don Rubell are probably some of the most dynamic collectors on the scene and happened to be utterly adorable too. They were the first to buy Keith Haring’s work (ironically, they also bought the last work he ever made), and, as well as being utterly passion about the art they collect, they’re also highly dedicated to working in cooperation with the artists they exhibit.
First off, the cross-section of the art in the collection is pretty staggering: major works from the likes of Kara Walker, Barkley Hendricks and Basquiat sit alongside video performance pieces by upcoming artist Kalup Linzy, and the gorgeous rhinestone-encrusted paintings of newcomer Mikalene Thomas are housed in the same gallery as her childhood hero Robert Colescott. Conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist as a portable extension of the collection, artist and Puma designer John Armeleder worked with the Rubells on the concept of an exhibit in a bag (if you know your ’60s performance art, you know the idea borrows from Robert Filliou’s famous Museum in a Hat) the “Reality Bag 2.” Its contents include reproduced scribbles, notes and sketches from artists in the collection.