Beg, Borrow and Steal: Selections from the Rubell Family Collection

Taubman Museum of Art
October 11, 2014 – January 10, 2015

“Beg, Borrow and Steal” presents paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos and installations by world renowned artists from the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, Florida. In 2005, Don (Donald) and Mera Rubell, legendary collectors and founders of the Rubell Family Collection, had a series of conversations with artists about the nature of appropriation and mentorship in their work as a way to honor past generations of artists. This exhibition was born out of those conversations, and its title comes from a quote attributed to Pablo Picasso: “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” While the question of artistic influence may not be new, what artists choose to borrow, appropriate or steal, and from whom, is distinct in that it becomes a reflection of their own time and culture. The exhibition provides an exclusive presentation of over ninety seminal works culled from the Rubell Family Collection, Miami and premieres several renowned American artists for the first time to the Roanoke Valley.

“Beg, Borrow and Steal” explores artists who use appropriation – of style, images, strategies, history, techniques, and forms – in a way that is both honoring past generations of artists while also referencing contemporary culture such as the internet and mass consumerism. The curatorial premise elaborates on artists’ efforts to build on the legacies of their predecessors as they present their own new ideas. Art about art and “stolen” imagery has fueled many an artist’s production, and this exhibition contains numerous landmark examples.

The exhibition brings together artists from different generations whose work abandons the search for new visuals and instead seeks an inventive use of existing images, signs, and cultural symbols. Artists in the exhibition who establish this artistic tradition include Ai Weiwei, Jenny Holzer, Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons, Paul McCarthy, Takashi Murakami, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring. Photography plays a significant role in much of the work, which is represented in the exhibition by artists John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, David Salle, and Cindy Sherman, all of whom are using manipulated photographic images to create collages or appropriated stereotypical portraits in humorous ways. Other artists like Kehinde Wiley are inspired by diverse sources such as fashion and 17th century European masters’ painting to create work that comments on art history’s lack of representation and diversity in race and gender. Some of the represented artists use technical innovations and the web to create multi-layered and densely informed art such as Barbara Kruger whose work Untitled (Money Makes Money) features an iconic phrase screen printed over the photographic image of a lush rose.

As equally important to the notion of artist appropriation in the exhibition is the story of collecting art by the Rubells. Don and Mera Rubell began purchasing art in the mid-1960s when Mera was a Head Start teacher and Don was in medical school. The couple was among the earliest collectors of such renowned artists as Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince. Now the Rubell Family Collection is housed in a 45,000 square-foot museum in Miami. It is one of the world’s largest privately owned contemporary art collections. Their Contemporary Arts Foundation is generous to museums across the country allowing institutions to borrow the work of important modern and contemporary artists. In addition to the Taubman Museum of Art, the Foundation has loaned significant works to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Palm Springs Art Museum in California, and the North Carolina Museum of Art, among others. Beg, Borrow and Steal presents a visual dialogue between internationally recognized older and younger artists whose works contribute to the discussion of how borrowing can be a way to comment on the past while still making something fresh and new. Loaded with clever juxtapositions and images that look strangely familiar yet foreign, the exhibited artists’ work riffs on works created by other artists.

This presentation of “Beg, Borrow and Steal” on view at the Taubman Museum of Art has been co-curated by Amy G. Moorefield, Deputy Director of Exhibitions at the Taubman Museum of Art, in collaboration with the Rubell Family Collection, Miami. This exhibition is sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

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