May 22, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

20 Minutes With: Digital Art Gallery Tappan Collective Founder Chelsea Neman Nassib

5 min read

Buying art today no longer requires a visit to an art gallery, and Chelsea Neman Nassib is on the forefront of the art world’s shift to purchasing from home. She’s the founder of Tappan Collective, an innovative online platform that sells works by a curated number of artists.

In 2012, Nassib launched Tappan to connect young artists with seasoned art collectors across the globe. Today, she represents 75 artists globally, from painters to photographers. It’s a part of what the future of the art world could look like—a fully digital, remote business model with transparent pricing.

During the pandemic, her business thrived as art collectors shopped online to fill their white walls at home, while other brick-and-mortar galleries struggled and some even closed, questioning whether a lease is even necessary when it comes to art sales.

Alongside the artwork, Tappan’s website features photos of artists in their studios, with information on the background of each work, interviews with collectors, and guest curators, such as author
Eva Chen
and activist Malene Barnett.

Nassib’s roster includes Los Angeles artist
Umar Rashid,
who has created limited-edition prints depicting mythological figures, African and indigenous communities, and historic artifacts for what the artist calls “a process of storytelling and mythmaking.” She also represents Brooklyn artist
Fanny Allié,
who creates intuitive drawings that depict mysterious figures in a dreamlike world.

Nassib, 32, spoke to Penta about storytelling through art, her own art collection, and the risks around transparent pricing.

Tappan artist Bryce Wymer’s paintings on view at Pharrell’s The Goodtime Hotel in Miami.


Tappan Collective

PENTA: Why did you begin Tappan Collective?

Chelsea Neman Nassib: Shortly after I graduated from art school, I quickly learned the path to success wasn’t clear. I started working for an interior designer at the time. I was surrounded by incredible artists and learned to pair them with art collectors who didn’t feel they had access to. Together, it was a win-win.

Who are your art collectors?

In general, our clients have the income to spend, but don’t know where to go to get authentic art. I wanted to show them young artists on the rise who weren’t in the blue-chip market. Artists who were professional, making original work, but not easy to find.

Why wouldn’t these collectors just go to an art gallery?

I think many people rely on their interior designers to guide them. In general, a lot of brick-and-mortar spaces, especially 10 years ago, can be cold and intimidating. Some collectors don’t feel like they have what it takes to go in and ask questions—for prices and to learn about the artists.

Why do you make the prices of each artwork transparent on your website?

We felt like transparency was one of the barriers to entry. So, we make the pricing and availability transparent.

Why is storytelling such a huge part of the process between connecting artists and collectors?

Storytelling is what we lead with the most. We’re always trying to highlight an artist’s intention in making an artwork, what they were interested in exploring. When people are reading descriptions of artworks, they are usually drawn to something not only aesthetically but also conceptually, too. We have a team of art advisors who work with clients, one on one.

Artist Umar Rashid.


Tappan Collective

Who are some of the artists you represent?

Jaimie Milner
is a photographer on our platform who has a series called Gifted, where she’s highlighting Black men in her community, and is doing profiles on Black artists and musicians, it’s a powerful series.
Satsuki Shibuya
is an artist who works with watercolor, making artwork intuitively, and is inspired by the energy we all interact with on a day-to-day basis. She portrays energy fields through watercolor paint.

Why is a remote art gallery important going forward, versus a brick-and-mortar gallery?

I see us as an entry point for people looking to start collecting or discovering artists. In the traditional art world, brick-and-mortar galleries are still important. That’s not going anywhere. Our business model can coexist alongside that. People can find artwork they like at a price they can afford, which is accessible, and they can understand. Art that is within their reach, something they can engage with. That’s what we’re trying to change.

How is the art world changing to become more e-commerce friendly?

Over the pandemic, so many galleries had to close. We had to reach people at home. Going digital has become fascinating for us to watch because it has been something we have been working on for the past nine years. In the past, galleries haven’t allowed clients to check out a sale online, you still must contact the gallery to see if you’re able to purchase the work. That’s how it’s different.

What was it like being at the forefront of selling art digitally in the early 2010s?

It has come full circle. In 2010, the art world said it would never go online. Even for artists, it can be scary and nerve-wracking for them to go online because of the way the art world is rooted in its traditions. People have said: “This isn’t going to work.” Over time, they’ve come online, and we feel great we were ahead of the curve.

What’s in your own personal art collection?

Over the years, I’ve collected a lot of works by Tappan Collective artists, like
Ethan Caflisch,
who was with us when we started the gallery, and is based in London. I also started recently collecting the works of
Mia Weiner,
who creates tapestries of the classical human form. I also love landscape photos by
James Needham.

How is the art world changing to become more digital?

There’s a lot more accessibility and access, even through platforms like Instagram, I find people who wouldn’t have engaged with the traditional art world seeking artists out, engaging with artists, curious about their practice, and collecting.

What advice do you have for art collectors today?

Always buy with your eyes and not with your ears. That’s said a lot, but I believe it—buy pieces that you personally love, not ones that you think you should be buying. Get to know artists and galleries, develop relationships. Learn about an artist’s practice, read interviews with them, and do your research. Follow their work. And most importantly, develop your own taste in art. Find what you like and what kind of art you can live with.

This article has been edited for length and clarity.

https://www.barrons.com/articles/20-minutes-with-digital-art-gallery-tappan-collective-founder-chelsea-neman-nassib-01638207248

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