Art History



Degree Name

Master of Arts in Art History (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work

Qualifying paper


Jayme Yahr

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Kindall

Third Advisor

Victoria Young


Within the past decade, the number of museums opened by private individuals has
grown at an exponential rate, many with a focus on displaying contemporary art. In the
wake of the rise of these private museum institutions, much of the newspaper and journal attention has centered on the economic value of the collections displayed and the collectors’ financial or egotistical motivations, often portraying the museums as vanity projects or tax evasion measures. Such a limited perception and discussion of these institutions ignores the rich history of donor memorial museums in the United States, harkening back to museums bearing the names of American businessmen. The goal of this paper is to analyze how the tradition of donor memorial museums has transformed into the contemporary donor memorial museum through the example of two case studies. Prominent collectors and married couples Don and Mera Rubell and Eli and Edythe Broad will be the focus of this paper, along with the museums they created: the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, Florida, and The Broad in Los Angeles, California. I argue that the primary difference in both museums from other contemporary public art museums, and the donor memorial museums of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, is the presentation of the donors through a brand. I will illustrate how the representations of the collectors and their collections attempt to steer visitors away from interpretations of what Thorstein Veblen referred to as conspicuous consumption. In the Rubell Family Collection and The Broad the focus is on the curatorial eye of the associated collecting
couple. The exhibition spaces are branded as either a Rubell or Broad collecting choice. The couples are both known for their high-cost contemporary art collections, but little has been written from a combined museum studies and art historical approach about their respective namesake museums.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.