A not-unexpected surprise awaits visitors to the Miami-based Rubell Family Collection’s website. Scion of collector royalty and son of Don and Mera, Jason Rubell is releasing a catalogue of a show memorializing the works he collected from ages 13 to 21, an illustrious and mature body of art that Jason also gathered into a senior thesis exhibition in college. Pay attention folks, this is a lesson in narcissism that’s likely to go unparalleled in the art world for a little while.

Reprising “an exhibition that Jason Rubell first curated for his college thesis at Duke University in 1991,” the catalogue, Time Capsule, Age 13 to 21: The Contemporary Art Collection of Jason Rubell, poses the adolescent and young adult Rubell as an 80s-straddling collecting mastermind. We are told by the pre-order website’s blurb that the young college graduate’s exhibition “traveled to ten university art museums between 1991 and 1994.” Sorry Jason, was the exhibition’s influence because of your curating skills or because of your family’s money and reputation that bought the work of the “53 artists” that you featured?

To call this conflict of interest would be ridiculous because we’re dealing with a wholly private collection. Rubell can do what he wants. I’m just calling it stupid and self-obsessed. Are we supposed to believe Rubell’s posing his early “collecting work” as some kind of curatorial accomplishment? This catalogue is self-mythologizing in the worst way. And worse yet, a (Thomas Ruff?) portrait of the collector as a young man is the only thing to grace the cover of the volume.

Like a mid-career artist mounting a show crowning their early works as their best, Rubell’s catalogue just makes him seem like a navel-gazing, self-aggrandizing child. Jason Rubell is now age 40, and honestly, he should know better than to be so shallow. Has he not made any intellectual progress in the past 19 years of his post-21 existence? Dude, curate a new exhibition. Better yet, contextualize it outside of your own adolescence.

You know what I collected at age 13? Those little porcelain figurines that came with the tea bags. I’m planning a retrospective next year.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

9 replies on “Breaking: Rich Young Collector Curates Own Show, Thinks It’s Awesome”

  1. Shit! The New Museum is going to be bummed when they learn I sold off my collection of X-Men comics (the prized John Byrne issues, mind you, purchased at 7-11) years ago.

  2. “Pay attention folks, this is a lesson in narcissism that’s likely to go unparalleled in the art world for a little while.”

    Because it’s not true (there are so many other examples), this sentence made me think, “I bet he collected Koons.”

    Sure enough…

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