The Annabelle Selldorf-designed Rubell Museum opens in emerging Miami art district

New York-based Selldorf Architects converts a series of former industrial buildings in Miami’s Allapattah neighbourhood into a museum-worthy setting for a family’s art collection, making more of it accessible to the public than ever before

Pavement outside of white building
Exterior view of the Rubell Museum porch and courtyard garden.
(Image credit: Nicholas Venezia. Courtesy of Selldorf Architects)

When Mera and Don Rubell began collecting in 1964, they diligently assigned a budget of $25 (a quarter of Mera’s teaching salary) each week to art. Five decades on, the genial couple have amassed an enviable collection of 7,200 works by more than one thousand artists – and counting. Together with their son Jason, the family recently opened the doors to their collection’s new home in Miami’s emerging Allapattah neighbourhood, enlisting Selldorf Architects to reimagine a disused rice storage complex as the newly minted Rubell Museum (previously known as the Rubell Family Collection).

The New York-based architecture firm gutted and transformed six warehouse units into a cohesive 100,000 sq ft campus – tripling the exhibition capacity of the collection’s previous space, a two-storey former Drug Enforcement Agency building less than a mile away in the city’s Wynwood district. The Rubell Museum now unfolds across a single level, comprising 40 galleries, a flexible events and performance space, a richly stocked research library, a bookstore, an outdoor bar and new restaurant LEKU, serving Basque cuisine.

Large white studio

(Image credit: Nicholas Venezi)

Long colourful wall art

Above, view of courtyard garden. Below, art in the galleries.

(Image credit: Nicholas Venezi)

Inside the museum, Annabelle Selldorf – the go-to architect for blue-chip galleries including David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth – has largely hewed to the building’s industrial origins. The structure’s factory bones are palpable in the expansive ceilings and concrete columns, tempered by a museum-quality finish of white walls and refinished concrete floors. Hurricane-safe windows have been strategically placed in the warehouse structure to allow Miami’s abundant daylight to filter into the space, while an internal street branches off into the galleries to the west, and leads to administrative spaces to the east.

Selldorf addressed the needs of the collection with scaling galleries, to accommodate monumental works from Sterling Ruby, Keith Haring, Kehinde Wiley and more, through to installations, such as Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms, and more modestly sized pieces. At the heart of the site – where the loading dock was once located – is a leafy courtyard garden designed by La Casona Garden in collaboration with Juan Roselione-Valadez. The garden was conceived as a ‘restoration project’ using rare plants native to the Everglades and the Florida Keys.

The Rubells were instrumental in luring Art Basel to Miami Beach 18 years ago, so it’s only fitting that the influential collectors timed the opening of their new museum on 4 December during Miami Art Week. They’re in good company too: fellow Miami art power player, the philanthropist and magnate Jorge M Pérez, similarly opened his own private museum, El Espacio 23, several blocks directly west, in Allapattah. As development hots up in this swiftly changing area, we’ll be on neighbourhood watch.

Tree lined courtyard

The internal courtyard.

(Image credit: Nicholas Venezi. Courtesy of Selldorf Architects)

Exterior of building

Exterior view of the Rubell Museum.

(Image credit: Nicholas Venezi. Courtesy of Selldorf Architects)

Gated entrance

The entrance to the Rubell Museum.

(Image credit: Nicholas Venezi. Courtesy of Selldorf Architects)

Walkways around courtyard

Covered walkways surrounding the garden lead visitors first to the reception desk and a restaurant.

(Image credit: Nicholas Venezi. Courtesy of Selldorf Architects)

Corridor with artwork along the walls

From left, Stake: Art is Food for Thought and Food Costs Money, 1985, by John Baldessari; Untitled, 1982, Keith Haring; Llano Estacado, Dallas, Texas, 1979, by Carl Andre; and Branded Head, 2003, by Hank Willis Thomas.

(Image credit: Chi Lam. © The artists)

White room filled with art work

Pharos, 1985, and Brest, 1985, by Philip Taaffe; Slanted Playpen, 1987, by Robert Gober; Untitled, 2007, by Christopher Wool; Untitled (Sink), 1984, by Robert Gober; Heritage, 1986, by Nancy Shaver; Untitled (Golden Knots:5), 1987, by Sherrie Levine; “Untitled” (Join), 1990, by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, in conjunction with Michael Jenkins.

(Image credit: Chi Lam. © The artists)

Large colourful artwork on white walls

Das Neue, 2003, by Neo Rauch; Schauspieler, 2013, by Isa Genzken; Demos, 2004, and Vorfuehrung, 2006, by Neo Rauch.

(Image credit: Chi Lam. © The artists)

Large painting & neon sign on white wall

America, 2008, by Glenn Ligon; Sleep, 2008, by Kehinde Wiley; Untitled, 1982, by Keith Haring; Llano Estacado, Dallas, Texas, 1979, by Carl Andre.

(Image credit: Chi Lam. © The artists)

Gated entrance of building

The building maintains the overall vocabulary of the original structures while updating them sensitively to serve their new public purpose.

(Image credit: Nicholas Venezi. Courtesy of Selldorf Architects)