Nahema Mehta, CEO of Absolut Art, talks about Berlin, the art market – and shares some tips on how to start collecting art.
Norbert Bayer: Dear Nahema Mehta, how did you choose the artists for this exhibition of the Berlin edition of Absolut Art?
Nahema Mehta: In every city we go into we partner with local curators on the ground and work with them collaboratively to choose the artists that we think represent the city. In Berlin we partnerned with Francesca Gavin and Nadim Samman here.
What was different in Berlin than in other cities?
I love Berlin – there is an incredible balance between historical relevance and unconventional thinking – you can see that tension in all of these works. That for me is spectacular, and unique to Berlin – it’s what’s made Berlin not only an art-hub that the culturely curious always want to come back to – myself included.
When have you been to Berlin for the first time?
Oh my godness, when I was ten, eleven. I grew up in Belgium in Antwerp, so not so far away. I think when I had came to Berlin for the first time, it was even more raw, not so built out, but that spirit still exists.
We hope to cultivate it…
You do! You don’t hope, you accomplish!
What is your target group for this exhibition?
Our target group is anyone who is looking to have contemporary art on their walls. Someone who really wants to live with art and wants an accessible and intuitive way to do it.
What do you think is the advantage to have artworks on your own wall instead of having them in museums and public spaces?
I think the advantages are complimentary – it’s very important to have both. And it’s wonderful to see it in a museum and in public spaces – public spaces I love personally. But having it in your home, it moves you, you live with it, you grow with the art. I had some artworks in my life, the way I look at them changes as I change. For example when I was younger my mother had gotten me a piece of work and at that was quite political but visually pleasing. At that time I didn’t see the politics in it at all – I was too young. When I was older I started to have an opinion about it and have a conversation around it. That’s what so great about art – it sparks conversation. So I think it grows with you and enriches how you live. There are so many people who are like „Oh, I’m too scared to have art on my wall and I don’t know what to get.” Get what you love! Your taste changes, you will change, you will evolve and the art around you will also – that’s ok! That’s a good thing!
Which artworks are in your private collection?
In my private collection I have a lot of politically inspired art. And now I’m also starting to collect art from Absolut Art as well – such a great way to explore the art scenes of different cities – an accessible way to be a part of these movements happening around the world. I love visiting all the artists studios – and we put that experience online through our videos.
So you also went directly to the studios?
Yes! We do all these videos with the artists in the studio and you really learn about the process. Sometimes I think when you see JPGs on a site you forget that there’s a person behind them, who has dedicated their whole life to the creation of art. So those studio visits are very important to me and very important to us to bring to our audience.
Do you want to democratize the art market?
Exactly: Our whole goal is to close the gap between artists creating and people collecting by making it easy to discover and own contemporary art.
Don’t you think the art market depends on a sort of insiders game also?
I think the art market is fantastic and I think it can be intimidating for some people. So our ambition is to eliminate that intimation. We don’t see ourselves as a replacement of the existing art world ecosystem – we see ourselves as an extension of it, bringing it to a larger group of people.
What was the most inspiring part of the work on this exhibition for you?
Two things: Meeting the artists and also just a moment that happened tonight which was helping someone decide what to take home with them. Those moments for me are the most inspiring because that’s what we want to do. We want people to be able to live with art and be confident collecting art they love.
Are the artworks exclusively made for Absolut Art?
Many of them are – I would say about seventy percent of them are exclusively for Absolut Art.
So people can only get them here and not in the gallery?
How big is the edition of each artwork?
It’s between 5 and 200 pieces, but the majority consists of 30 to 50. And everything is signed and numbered. So don’t be afraid to start collecting!
Absolut Art | Aufbauhaus am Moritzplatz, Berlin | 27.11. bis 6.12.2015 | täglich von 11 bis 19 Uhr | 17 bis 19 Uhr: Cocktailhour mit Rahmenprogramm
Alle Fotos: Sebastian Reuter/Getty Images for Absolut Art