Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Rubell Museum DC Announces Inaugural Exhibition

What's Going On brings together more than 190 works by 37 artists who are responding to pressing social and political issues.

Rubell Museum DC Announces Inaugural Exhibition

The Rubell Museum announced the inaugural exhibition, What's Going On, for its new museum opening in Washington, DC on October 29, 2022. Dedicated exclusively to contemporary art, the Rubell Museum DC will reinvigorate the 1906 building of the former Randall Junior High School, a historically Black public school in Southwest DC that ceased operations in 1978.

The museum will serve as a place for the public to engage with the most compelling national and international artworks of our time. What's Going On draws its title from the groundbreaking 1971 album by Randall Junior High School alumnus Marvin Gaye that provided a powerful condemnation of the Vietnam War and the destructive realities of social injustice, drug abuse, and environmental negligence. It also references the cornerstone of the exhibition: Keith Haring's Untitled (Against All Odds), 1989, a series of 20 works inspired by Gaye's revolutionary lyrics.

"The museum's historic setting in a place of learning invites the public to explore what artists can teach us about the world we live in," said Mera Rubell. "As a former teacher, I see artists and teachers playing parallel roles as educators and in fostering civic engagement. With the preservation of this building, we honor the legacy of the Randall School's many teachers, students, and parents."

Totaling 32,000 square feet, the museum preserves the original layout of the historic school. What were once classrooms and teachers' offices will now serve as galleries with artwork that provides perspectives, insights, and commentary on contemporary ideas and issues. The adaptive reuse of the building also retains the school's 4,000-square-foot auditorium, a sweeping space for the presentation of ambitious, large-scale artworks and performances. The museum's new glass pavilion entrance will feature a bakery, bookstore, and terrace that will serve as a beacon for the community.

What's Going On brings together more than 190 works by 37 artists who are responding to pressing social and political issues that continue to affect society today, including Natalie Ball, Cecily Brown, Maurizio Cattelan, Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Leonardo Drew, Chase Hall, February James, Rashid Johnson, Josh Kline, Cady Noland, Richard Prince, Christina Quarles, Tschabalala Self, Sylvia Snowden, Vaughn Spann, Hank Willis Thomas, Mickalene Thomas, John Waters, Carrie Mae Weems, Kehinde Wiley, Kennedy Yanko, and Cajsa von Zeipel, among many others.

Keith Haring's Untitled (Against All Odds), 1989, introduces the exhibition. This pivotal series of 20 works depicts a dystopia that demonstrates Haring's lifelong concern with environmental destruction, oppression, and illness. In a handwritten inscription that accompanies these drawings, Haring cites the influence of Marvin Gaye's album What's Going On, which he listened to endlessly while creating these artworks. The series is dedicated to Don Rubell's brother Steve Rubell, who passed away from AIDS in 1989 at age 45.

The opening of the Rubell Museum DC builds on past initiatives aimed at sharing the Rubell Family's contemporary art collection with audiences across the DC metro area. In 2011, the Corcoran Gallery of Art became one of the first institutions to present 30 Americans, a wide-ranging survey of works by many of the most important African American artists of the last three decades.

Additional Rubell Museum exhibitions that have traveled to DC include No Man's Land: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection (2016) at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and Life After Death: New Leipzig Paintings (2006) at American University Museum's Katzen Arts Center. Loans from the collection have been featured in Juan Muñoz (2001), Robert Gober: Sculpture + Drawing (2001), and Directions: Sherrie Levine (1998) at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; as well as Alexis Rockman: A Fable for Tomorrow (2011) at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Additional loans have been showcased at the National Portrait Gallery, including a work by Kehinde Wiley in Recognize! Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture (2008) and by Njideka Akunyili Crosby in the museum's forthcoming presentation of Kinship (opening October 28, 2022).

The historic building's reinvigoration and adaptive reuse into a museum was conceived by the Rubells and Telesis, and realized by Lowe, a national real estate developer, which is also developing an adjacent new 492-unit apartment building, Gallery 64, with 20% of its units dedicated to affordable housing. Beyer Blinder Belle is the design architect for the museum and the apartment building.

TodayTix


More Hot Stories For You


THE HERO ART PROJECT Honoring Healthcare Heroes Launches NationallyTHE HERO ART PROJECT Honoring Healthcare Heroes Launches Nationally
October 1, 2022

The HERO ART PROJECT, portraits of healthcare heroes lost in the line of duty during the pandemic, rolls out its national launch this fall with an exhibit on the National Mall and additional exhibits planned for New York (October), Miami, Texas, Georgia, New England, and the West Coast.  

ALL THINGS EQUAL - THE LIFE AND TRIALS OF RUTH BADER GINSBURG to Launch 2022-23 National Tour Next MonthALL THINGS EQUAL - THE LIFE AND TRIALS OF RUTH BADER GINSBURG to Launch 2022-23 National Tour Next Month
September 30, 2022

All Things Equal – The Life and Trials of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a new play by multiple-Tony Award winning playwright Rupert Holmes, will launch its 16 city, 2022-2023 National Tour on Oct. 5th in St. Petersburg, FL.  

Video: Cast Members of DANCE NATION at Olney Theatre Center Discuss Their Approach to Playing TweensVideo: Cast Members of DANCE NATION at Olney Theatre Center Discuss Their Approach to Playing Tweens
September 30, 2022

Dance Nation by Clare Barron and directed by Jenna Place opened Olney Theatre Center's 84th season in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab. The production is scheduled to run through Sunday October 30, 2022. See the actors discuss their approach to the roles here!

2-Time GRAMMY Nominated Vocalist Catherine Russell to Perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center This Weekend2-Time GRAMMY Nominated Vocalist Catherine Russell to Perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center This Weekend
September 29, 2022

Catherine Russell has a full schedule of performances slated throughout the East Coast and in Europe to finish off the year. Among them include her annual four-night residency at Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center from September 29 through October 2, with two shows nightly.

Embracing Arlington Arts Releases EMMETT TILL TRILOGY AND RACIAL JUSTICE Education Podcast SeriesEmbracing Arlington Arts Releases EMMETT TILL TRILOGY AND RACIAL JUSTICE Education Podcast Series
September 28, 2022

The non-profit organization Embracing Arlington Artss has released its 'Emmett Till Trilogy and Racial Justice - Theaters Keeping the Conversation Going' four-part Educational Podcast Series.