Meet Art Remba: The democratization of fine art|
In the 7 1/2 years I’ve lived in New York, there’s one thing I know for sure that I’ve been missing out on in the city: art galleries.
I find them inaccessible and alienating, because I know almost nothing about art. The major exception, obviously, is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I have a membership and go read whenever humanly possible. But as long as I’m being honest with myself, I have to admit that my Met membership is mostly so that I can sit in the American wing and pretend to be a character in The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
I’m a special breed of ignorant when it comes to art, but I’m not alone. And in a world where almost every type of service and product imaginable has migrated online, art is in a class by itself. Services like ArtWeb.com and a handful of other highly curated sites exist; but the democratization of accessibility to fine art has not, to date, found its ideal business model.
Enter Nahema Mehta, founder of Art Remba (www.artremba.com). A highly trained art fanatic (she was valedictorian of her class when she received her Masters in Art Business from Sotheby’s) Ms. Mehta looked at the online art world and saw an obvious need: a way to introduce young people to the art world. While options exist for the sale of art online, many options are tailored toward adults far enough along in their careers to be able to afford to select art independently and buy it upfront.
Mehta, though, has tailored her e-commerce site to curate a set of gallery-shown artist’s pieces and offer it for lease or for purchase. Where cost and inexperience have been the barrier to entry into the art world for young people, Art Remba makes it possible to experiment, learn about art, and learn individual preferences with little to no risk.
I was able to sit with Ms. Mehta and ask her a few questions. Highlights from our conversation:
So, what good has come of Art Remba thus far?
We make it easy for aspiring collectors to take risks without risk. Our Members have the luxury of following their gut and collecting intuitively without the pressure of committing to a work before they know they love living with it. Enabling people fall in love with artworks at their own pace is incredibly rewarding.
It’s wonderful to help artists and galleries feature more works than their physical space and exhibition schedule allow. At its core, Art Remba is about uniting aspiring collectors, artists, and galleries around a shared belief that fine art should be discovered and enjoyed, not tucked away and stored.
One of the fundamental ideas of your business is that you provide accessibility to the art world. Got any examples?
I have several Remba Members who were convinced that they could never access, “understand,” or find the time to engage with fine art. For example, before she became a Member, one bright young lady told me the following: “I don’t think I know good from bad – all I know is that I like color.”
These people loved art, but felt like they needed a certain vocabulary to talk about it and specific connections to engage with it. The truth is, the key to learning about art is taking the time to look at as much as you can, experience as much as you can, and pay attention to how a work makes you feel and what it is about the work that makes you feel that way.
Art Remba gave these young people a pressure-free, comfortable, and curated environment to do just that. We’re able to put otherwise “aspirational” works of art within the economic grasp of the next generation of art collectors and my favorite thing is to watch people discover and engage with works they believed to be out of reach.
How has it changed the art world?
For the uninitiated, collecting fine art – specifically the kind of art featured at auction houses, galleries, and prominent art fairs – can be daunting. The main obstacles are the exclusivity, intimidation and cost associated with the process.
I founded Art Remba to eliminate these concerns: our Members have access to a selection of critically acclaimed artwork and can subscribe to works they love on a monthly basis with 50% of their subscription dues going toward purchase. subscribe to critically acclaimed artwork on a monthly basis and 50% of their subscription dues can be applied towards purchase.
Our partnerships with respected artists and galleries is what sets us apart as we are able to offer acclaimed artwork ranging from a couple thousand to upwards of $60k, starting at only $50/piece/month. So it doesn’t matter whether you want to experience living with a “dream” work or slowly invest toward a work you can afford.
All featured works are a click away and are hand delivered to your door with a comprehensive dossier on the artist. We also initiate our Members into the art world by facilitating conversations with galleries and artists.
How have you enabled galleries to increase their market base?
By giving new collectors a way to become comfortable with art they would have otherwise shied away from, we’ve been able to bring fresh eyes to galleries’ and artists’ works. For example, the first works we featured were from a prominent gallery focused on Indian and Southeast Asian art. The booming Asian art scene is unchartered territory for many New Yorkers who have been exposed primarily to Western art, but our model enabled several of them to start exploring the genre in an intuitive, accessible, and streamlined manner.
Not only does this type of interaction help broaden galleries’ market base, but it also encourages collectors to engage and fall in love with art that may have at first seemed foreign and inaccessible.
How has your experience in the art world helped you navigate the world of online art?
I’ve experienced the art world from both an academic and financial perspective through a variety of lenses: my mother’s eye for collecting, my time at the Sotheby’s Institute, and my work at a NY-based art private equity fund.
My roots in and respect for the art space led me to create something that didn’t “disrupt” the traditional art scene, but rather complimented it in an innovative manner that was mutually beneficial to both our Members and traditional players in the art world. It was important for me not only to provide an exceptional selection of works to our Members, but also to be sensitive to, and appropriately address, issues surrounding fine art such as insurance and installation.
What’s your vantage point on the landscape and where it’s going in the future?
There are several innovative online art ventures that use the digital space to make art collecting more accessible, primarily by offering limited edition prints and works by emerging artists. I think the future lies in the ability to engage with a growing generation of culture-enthusiasts who want it all: access to respected galleries and artists, the convenience of technology, and the pleasures of in person experience.