The wall above your couch has been occupied by the black and white cityscape canvas you picked up at Bed, Bath, and Beyond before moving into your college dorm room for far too long. As a young professional, you want your apartment to be a reflection of your unique taste and design esthetic. However, breaking into the world of fine art collecting and making a several thousand dollar investment in a work of art is intimidating and often inaccessible to young professionals. Nahema Mehta identified this challenge and founded Art Remba to partner clients with gallerists and artists who had acclaimed artwork hidden away in storage waiting for upcoming exhibitions. Levo met up with Mehta at her swank Tribeca apartment to learn more.
Where you are from originally?
Education (College / Major):
Columbia Business School, MBA, Masters of Business Administration
Sotheby’s Institute of Art, M.A., Art Business
Columbia University, B.A., Comparative Literature and Anthropology
Founder, Art Remba
Brief description of Art Remba:
Art Remba democratizes access to the art world: we give you the exclusive opportunity to borrow and invest-to-own art from top galleries at accessible monthly rates (think a $10,000 work of art on your wall for $150/month). To complete the experience, members also enjoy perks like artist studio visits and VIP tickets to art fairs. Members love us because we make enjoying art easy. Galleries and artists love us because we place the artworks they can’t fit on their walls, directly onto the walls of high value customers.
As a languages major turned private equity fund manager, you’ve had experience at Merrill Lynch, Sotheby’s, and The Supreme Court of the United States. How did these varying experiences lead you to entrepreneurship?
Learning to quickly deconstruct disparate angles of a problem and tackle them accordingly has been an invaluable result of my varied training. I’ve always believed in cross-disciplinary practice and I think that type of training and approach lends itself well to building something from scratch. Having said that, I was definitely an accidental entrepreneur! Art Remba was a passion project that I started alongside a full-time job.
What inspired your interest in the art industry?
Art prompts discussion and I love that—you can debate everything from cultural identity to political dynamics through art. The art world is also international and forward thinking, which is important to me.
What was your dream job/career growing up?
I wanted to be a lawyer for Disney. Or Christiane Amanpour.
Your personal style in a few words:
I love simple, structured pieces with an edge in touch-worthy fabrics.
My mum. She’s effortlessly elegant.
Go-to outfit for meetings:
I rely on a uniform of pencil skirts paired with silk blouses, or dark jeans paired with tissue t-shirts and structured blazers.
Article of clothing (or accessory) you can’t live without:
Items in constant rotation include a men’s Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch that I inherited from my father, grey-green Maison Martin Margiela silk pants, and a tan Brunello Cucinelli coat.
Handbag and items inside:
Currently I’m going between a Céline Trapeze Bag and a FEED Kenya Bag. I’m never without my mobile phone, laptop, lip balm, and a book.
A day running Art Remba looks like:
From 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. I tackle my inbox and review documents for the day ahead. My day is a mix of meetings, calls, supervising project advancement, and gallery/client consultations.
What is the hardest part about starting a business in the luxury sector?
“Disrupting” is, understandably, a very popular term in the startup world. In tight-knit luxury sectors like fine art, however, I think the key to success is often more collaborative. It’s about creating change from within by earning the respect and support of the industry.
How do you select the pieces that are offered on Art Remba?
All the galleries we partner with are internationally recognized leaders in their space and each artist has something to say and a distinct, compelling way of expressing it. I select works that lure me in and keep me interested—ones that will inspire our members and make their house a home or their office a reflection of their company’s personality.
Favorite part of your job:
I try to be there for installations—I love watching people’s eyes light up as they watch a work of art immediately transform their space.
I put on a podcast (I’m hooked on The New Yorker’s “Political Scene,” Stanford’s “Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders,” and BBC’s “Global News”) and aim to get ready in the 20-ish minutes it takes for the podcast to run.
Where do you go for a ten-minute break?
I take a brisk walk around the neighborhood and use the time to chat on the phone with my family.
In your spare time you can be found:
Traveling. I recently discovered “My Places” for Google Maps, which is perfect for when people ask you for recommendations. It lets you create and share customized maps that show your favorite spots in different parts of the world.
Coffee drink of choice:
Ground Support in SoHo makes a killer almond milk latte. At night I’ll often whip up a hot chocolate from Pierre Marcolini.
Le Monde, BBC World, Fast Company, Harper’s Bazaar, The Coveteur, and The Atlantic.
Best piece of advice ever received:
“In order to break the rules, you must first master them.”
My grandparents, my uncles, and my mum.
In 10 years:
I want to be paying it forward.
Career wisdom for young professional women:
Back big ambition with an even bigger work ethic and surround yourself with people smarter than you. Oh, and never underestimate the impact of a handwritten note.
Nahema is a mentor on Levo. Ask her your questions!
Visual content by Pinsi Lei