She is a businesslike and engaging sprite, an entrepreneurial whiz with an MBA from Columbia University, a grounding in the art industry courtesy of Sotheby’s, and a cross-cultural identity filtered in Belgium, Kenya, and Switzerland. Now based in New York, Nahema Mehta is the intellect behind the ingenious Art Remba, art for hire, enterprise.
“I knew a lot of people were consuming luxury in every other way possible” Mehta explained, referring to how she came about the idea. “They had great apartments, they had great furniture and great clothing, went to the best restaurants, but I would look up at their walls and they would either be blank or they would have prints up. So, I would ask, why aren’t you collecting art?”
What they told her surprised her, but generated ideas and planted the seeds that would lead to Art Remba.
“The answer would often be that art is just too inaccessable, too time consuming,” She revealed. “They also felt that when they went into a gallery they weren’t taken seriously or looked down upon, even though they had considerable means and desire to really start collecting properly. I realised that this actually trickled over not only in their homes but also in their businesses and in their office spaces.”
Schooled by the best in the art business, Mehta also realised that when people visit a gallery only a small proportion of potential artwork is on display. So, while art lovers pour over the, relatively small, selection on the walls, there are hundreds of other pieces of art in storage under their feet. Nahema reasoned that the difficulties potential art owners encountered were not insurmountable, and she began to work out a business model which would be advantageous to all parts of the art equation.
“Galleries often don’t have a way to really mobilise or monetise that inventory and get in front of desirable clientele” Mehta said. “So, I thought okay, there has to be a way for these two groups of people to communicate better with each other. I thought the best way to do this was to lower all the traditional barriers to entry to the art market.”
Mehta’s aim was to make this an easier process all round. She wanted to make art held by galleries visible while reducing the risk to culture lovers by creating a subscription model which allowed clients to “hire” or “rent” up-market art. If the client enjoyed the art enough and wanted to buy, Art Remba would take 50 percent of their hire fees from the final price of purchase.
The model is deceptively simple. Galleries, instead of locking much of their art away, now have a way to make more of their stock visible, while those who want to own art are able to take their first steps with the risk reduced. At the same time time hard-pressed artists would get far wider and greater exposure for their work.
“Collectors love it,” Mehta said. “Because it makes the entire process and the whiteglove, supereasy. The galleries and artists love it because we take works that they aren’t currently exhibiting and place them on to the walls of desirable clientele.”
The company only works with galleries who represent top artists, and artists who have a global presence. Mehta, herself, has a pull toward artists from emerging markets, “because my passion and expertise lies in premier art from the emerging market,” she said. “So, India, China, America, Middle East, that’s where my focus is. We really just try to choose the best.”
The Art Remba model, of course, travels, though Mehta has concentrated on New York to make sure all the components are working properly before considering expanding the business. But she is nothing if not a restless soul. “We actually have some partners…in different parts of the US, but also in London and Paris and Hong Kong, but currently [we are] very, very much focused on New York.”