According to a report in the San Antonio Express-News also widely circulated on social media, David Rubin, The Brown Foundation Curator of Contemporary Art at the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) submitted his resignation on Tuesday, February 24, 2014. The resignation is effective immediately.
ArtBlogSA reached out to SAMA for comment and this statement was released :
“David has contributed so much to this museum, he goes with our great gratitude,” said Katie Luber, the Kelso Director at the museum. “We wish him well in all of his future endeavors and we look forward to seeing what he does next within the field of contemporary art.”
Prior to working at the San Antonio Museum of Art, Rubin was the Curator of Visual Arts at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans from 2000-2006. He has also held positions at the Phoenix Art Museum, Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art (now MOCA Cleveland), Freedman Gallery, Albright College, San Francisco Art Institute, Galleries of the Claremont Colleges, and Scripps College. He holds an M.A. in Art History from Harvard University.
Our initial response was shock. For us here at ArtBlogSA, Rubin had very much become the face of SAMA. Always in motion, always creating opportunities for the SAMA Contemporary Group to interact with each other here in San Antonio, across the U.S. and abroad. Collectors, gallerists, artists, academics, aficionados, neophytes, rich and poor, young and old — all mixed and mingled effortlessly. Rubin led the way with his uncanny ability to make often esoteric subject matter accessible and meaningful to those willing to show up for his frequent and popular talks.
Rubin’s resignation comes close on the heels of the equally surprising elimination of the position of Nancy Fullerton, veteran Assistant Curator of Latin American Art at SAMA. She wishes him best: “How fortunate San Antonio has been to have David Rubin with us for 7 1/2 years of curating contemporary art. With his high energy he introduced us to and taught us about local, national and international living artists. The Contemporaries support group was the largest and most active at SAMA. Attending one of David’s art tours in town or out of town, always took us to wonderful private collections, interesting galleries and artists’ studios. Through his unique conversations with artists, we learned of their backgrounds, current endeavors and future ambitions. David made contemporary art meaningful and accessible to all who would listen to him or read his extremely well written labels. David, we all hope you remain in San Antonio, but if your new endeavors take you beyond, we wish you continued success.”
We reached out to some other folks in the San Antonio contemporary art community for their responses to this news:
“David Rubin has been the most active institutional curator in the local arts community that I have ever seen. For this he should be heartily commended. I wish him well in his future pursuits and hope that his enthusiasm for local artists continues.” –Chris Sauter, Co-Chair, Contemporary Art Month
“David Rubin has been a great supporter of the Arts & Artists in the San Antonio Community. I remember his Tuesday at SAMA sit down with Franco Mondini-Ruiz it was fabulous. I wish him the best.” –Nina Hassele, Co-Chair, Contemporary Art Month
“I moved to San Antonio in 1986 and have seen SAMA lumber into the 21st century (…yawn!) until David Rubin arrived. KaPOW! things started to happen, and in a big way. David Rubin and Linda Pace both were the brains behind getting that great big cow’s hoof (San Antonio’s old world view of art) out of the mud. Whatever has happened, I am heartbroken that David will not be lending his vast knowledge of Contemporary art, expertise and charm to the catwalk at SAMA.” –Joan Frederick, Artist
“David has been a great advocate for and supporter of the artist community in San Antonio. He has also worked to advance the serious collecting of contemporary art locally and at the museum.” –Steven Evans, Executive Director, Houston FotoFest
“I enjoyed watching his curatorial stories unfold at SAMA. David engaged the community and fostered a spirit of growth for contemporary art in San Antonio. I wish him luck at his next endeavor!” –Susan Oliver Heard, Owner, Cinnabar Gallery
“I think that it is very important for a curator of contemporary art to be involved in their local art scene. I commend David for his support and encouragement of artists of San Antonio. He is a constant presence at artists openings and has had a proactive series of artists dialogues at SAMA — both nationally-known artists as well as those from our community.” –Bill Fitzgibbons
“David’s encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary art is an asset before unseen in San Antonio; his curatorial conscience and drive to educate were astounding. David’s vision for expansion of SAMA’s Contemporary Collection has been realized with the inclusion of outstanding artists from our own community. The Executive Committee and Contemporary Group will miss his leadership and dynamic programming both on the museum grounds and to collections, studios, and galleries throughout our city, state and country.” –Suhail Arastu, Excecutive Committee, Contemporary Collectors San Antonio Museum of Art
“I think he did an incredible job of highlighting the San Antonio art scene. From his artist interviews to his Friday night socials, he brought the art world to the citizens like nobody before him. It’s impossible to overstate the role he played in making SAMA relevant to the city, and our biggest fear is that the museum will go back to ignoring the richness and depth of San Antonio art.” –Gary Sweeney, Artist
“I am shocked and very sorry to hear that David Rubin has opted to leave his curatorial position at the San Antonio Museum of Art. His departure will leave a large hole in the bridge between San Antonio’s local art community and one of the major art institutions that represents our city. One of the most notable attributes of David is his visibility within the local art community. He supported so many of us by attending our shows, openings, events, and maintained an awareness and interest locally. A testament to his support can be seen in the Elizabeth Huth Coates gallery where many of us are represented in the collection and his periodic “conversations” which often featured local artists. I wish David the best in his new endeavors and hope the dust settles soon at SAMA and a trust can be maintained with whoever is hired to replace him. We would be fortunate to have someone with the qualifications and support David has given us over the past eight years.” —Lloyd Walsh, Artist
There is a persistent theme that emerges here. David is a consummate professional in the arts who is able to operate on a very personal level. His is not an “ivory tower” style. There is a relatability inherent in his professional stance. David’s imprint on this community is significant because he hasn’t held himself separate from or above the community he serves.
Very often, individuals in such a curatorial position have their eye constantly focused on who has the deep pockets, or who may benefit them professionally in the game of chess that the institutional art world is. Not so much David. Of course, he has cultivated the movers and shakers that any curator worth their salt must seek out in order to grow the contemporary collection at SAMA, and he did it well. However, he has also reached out into the streets, back alleys, warehouses and barrios of the San Antonio art scene to discover, embrace, and lift up a generation of young and gifted local artists. He was a presence not only at the museum, but as likely leading a group through Second Saturday in the SoFlo Arts District, or running into him at an obscure pop-up event.
Well, first we lost Steven Evans to Houston (after serving interim director duties at both Artpace and Blue Star). That stung. Now, David Rubin is adrift. The contemporary arts community in San Antonio is in quite a state of flux right now. It is our hope here at ArtBlogSA that David is working on new opportunities right here in San Antonio. The relationships that he has built here since 2006 are substantial, and a curator of his depth and ability is a beautiful thing on the open art world market.