Aug 19, 2022 - Things to Do

The Rubells return to D.C. with long-awaited art museum

Courtesy of the Rubell Museum

The long-awaited Rubell Museum just named D.C. arts veteran Caitlin Berry as its director, bringing it one step closer to opening this fall.

Why it matters: The contemporary art museum — funded by art world power couple Don and Mera Rubell and housed in the former Randall Junior High School building in Southwest — has been 10 years in the making.

The Rubells, who made their fortune thanks to Don’s brother Steve who ran the Studio 54 business, first took their legacy to Miami where they opened a museum “housed in a former Drug Enforcement Agency warehouse where the cocaine, cash, and Kalashnikovs that spelled Miami Vice were once stored,” according to the Washington Post.

  • Their move into the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami has since spawned more art galleries, murals, and eateries.

This isn’t their first venture into D.C. In the early 2000s, they bought and redeveloped the Capitol Skyline Hotel, making it a popular destination for pool parties.

Their latest project: Transforming the old Randall Junior High School, which they bought more than ten years ago to house their extensive contemporary art collection.

  • The school had been sitting untouched since 2006 when the Corcoran College of Art + Design bought it and then sold it to the Rubells amid an economic downturn. Since then, delays and changes in partnership have postponed an opening.
Don and Mera Rubell. Photo: Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Berry joins the museum from the Cody Gallery at Marymount University in Arlington.

  • Berry is on the board of the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art in Reston and D.C.’s ArtTable chapter. She was also the director at Hemphill Fine Arts, a leading D.C. art gallery that often includes emerging artists.

The Rubell Museum, which will be free to D.C. residents, will open on October 29.

  • "Part of the vision for preserving the historic Randall Junior High School building, a beloved local landmark, is to weave it back into the neighborhood and make it accessible to the entire community after many years of being closed," Berry told Axios over email.

Berry will work alongside the director of the Rubell Museum in Miami.

  • In addition to contemporary art, Berry’s focus includes the Washington Color School, the 1950s-1970s abstract expressionist art movement that started in D.C., and mid-century African American art.

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