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In 2012, Chelsea Neman Nassib founded the digital art gallery Tappan Collective to change the relationship between collectors, artists, and their work. At the time, she felt the majority of future collectors wanted to be involved in art, but didn't know where to begin.
In response, she broke a barrier and allowed for an accessible entryway through an unlikely source—the internet. Initially, Tappan Collective debuted as an e-commerce platform, yet has since expanding to incorporate unique editorial content, physical exhibitions, brand partnerships, and ongoing artist residencies around the world.
Recently, Tappan Collective also began accepting cryptocurrency and selling digital works like NFTs. It elaborates upon Neman Nassib’s efforts of not just keeping up with the market and telling the stories of living and working artists, but offering a transparent space that’s honest with hush-hush art world elements like inventory and pricing.
Whitewall spoke with Neman Nassib about the evolution of curating and selling art online, how being based in Los Angeles impacts her decisions for the company, and what’s next.
WHITEWALL: When you launched Tappan, it was an e-commerce platform, which feels a bit ahead of its time in the art world. How do you think the industry, and Tappan, has evolved in the world of e-commerce?
CHELSEA NEMAN NASSIB: The landscape is ever changing. After a year like 2020, we’ve seen blue chip galleries and museums embrace the virtual world by way of necessity. We’re happy to have pioneered a bit of that model, as we always believed people would purchase art online, and from any indication of the last twelve months that’s ringing more true than ever.
WW: Tappan champions transparency for elements that aren't typically seen in the art market—like inventory and price transparency. Why was this important to you?
CNN: One of the original issues we wanted to solve was connecting new collectors to emerging career artists who were ready to sell their work. Taking away layers that felt intimating was the only way to do that.
WW: In the beginning, you featured emerging artists, and now you represent artists further along in their careers. How do you typically find the artists you feature?
CNN: We’re very lucky to have a seasoned curatorial team who have an amazing eye and a good read on what our collectors are looking for. We scour MFA programs, local shows, and reach into our artists networks to find our artists.
WW: Does being based in Los Angeles impact your view of the art world? How so?
CNN: As it’s not as holden to the classical ideas of what a gallery must do, I believe Los Angeles has created an amazing environment where we think outside of the white cube so to speak. The city attracts people who want to do things differently, which is ideal for a company trying to accomplish a lot of firsts. Outside of that, there is amazing talent and incredible art being made daily, in just about every neighborhood of this expansive city. That keeps us inspired on its own.
WW: How do you feel Tappan compares to a typical art gallery model? What are the obvious differences you're expanding upon?
CNN: We’re very similar in the caliber of artists we take on in terms of how they’ll evolve throughout their careers. Outside of that, the differences are vast. We use innovative media forms and content to connect our collectors to our artists. We think through how social media, digital presence and overall public awareness play into how we’re building up our artist’s careers. As mentioned above, we’re very open on pricing and stand by that belief. Lastly, we’re not here to gatekeep anyone from enjoying the works of our artists, or collecting from them.
WW: Tappan accepts cryptocurrency. Can you tell us a bit about your idea of technology's growing role in the art world?
CNN: Just like how we couldn’t ignore how luxury shoppers were beginning to purchase online during the origin period of Tappan, we don’t want to ignore how people are thinking about technology and finance during this pivotal time. We’re very excited to meet our collectors where they are in terms of mindset and investment, and allow them to collect in innovative ways. This is only the beginning for what will come. As always, we’ll be watching our artist and collector community and responding to their wants and needs (hopefully before they even realize they need them)!
WW: Tappan is also beginning to mint NTF COAs, alongside the physical piece. What's your hot take on NFTs?
CNN: As a digitally native company, we’re excited to continue to watch and learn about the quickly changing world of NFTs and cryptocurrency. It was clear that our community was beginning to participate in it, and cared about how the technology is affecting the art market. We felt that bettering our COA and offering it in NFT form, so it can live in your smart wallet and on the block chain, was the first step to allowing more transparency and advanced provenance for physical artworks.
There are many exciting things around artist royalties and this technology that we hope to see systematize in the near future. We’re fully on board as this continues to look like an amazing advancement for our artists and collectors alike.
WW: Can you tell us about the "Studio Visits" section of Tappan, and what information you aim to share with the public about your artists?
CNN: To this day I believe the best way to explore artworks is through a visit to the artist’s studio. Let them tell you about what inspired them to create a piece, and you’ll likely fall in love with it. It’s that heart and soul of the work and the artist that I wanted to translate over to this digital medium, and thus the “Studio Visits” editorial component of our website was born.
WW: Who's on your radar right now?
CNN: The digital art space and how it's evolving. The exciting new artists joining our roster this year. How reopening will change the art landscape.
WW: What's next for Tappan?
CNN: Continually advancing our digital experience, expanding into new mediums, bringing on more emerging talent, and continuing to support our roster through new channels.
Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.