Chelsea Neman Nassib Is Building an Art Gallery Designed for the Digital Era

Chelsea Neman Nassib with works from Tappan Collective's "L.A. Made" exhibition.

When Chelsea Neman Nassib founded her online art gallery in 2012, the idea was new—and rather startling. Art has to be seen in person, right? Especially if you’re thinking of buying it.

But after graduating from the University of Michigan with a BFA in painting, Nassib thought otherwise: “After school, it felt like the path to success wasn’t clear. I began working for an interior designer, and we started selling my work to our clients.” While those clients could well afford to visit an art gallery, she realized, they felt put off by the experience: barricades of staff who size up visitors and avoid providing straightforward pricing information.


By this point, Nassib had moved back to her hometown of Los Angeles and decided to set up a different business model. Like its namesake, a space that nurtured Nassib’s own creative perspective and her interest in the art historical canon, the virtual gallery was grounded in the premise that art should feel accessible and visceral.

“Building Tappan has always been about creating a safe space for people to engage with the work,” she says. “For me, that was in the artist’s studio—as an artist in critique, up close and personal with the work. I wanted to make that experience available for others.”


Tappan Collective launched with the work of 20 artists on the platform, selected by Nassib for their talent and promise. It proved remarkably successful. Today, Nassib and her team work out of a sleek contemporary space on Melrose Avenue, where they represent about 100 artists from across the world.

Tappan generally holds group shows, with all the work available online. When we meet, there’s an eye-catching exhibition on view, featuring meditative paintings by Ryan Snow, meticulous drawings of ordinary objects by Claire Salvo, and bold ceramic vessels by Vince Palacios. I’m especially taken with a piece by Alyssa Breid, in which threads are woven across the surface of the canvas.


For Nassib, who navigated the challenging road to art world success in her own practice, providing artists with support—not just in sales, but in strengthening and evolving their work—is a central tenet of the company ethos. (This may be why a number of the Collective’s artists have managed to catch the attention of bigger galleries, progressing to respected names including Marianne Boesky, Beers, and the Hole.)

Finding the right artists has been key to the company’s longevity, and has led to the cultivation of a dedicated community of collectors who come to Tappan to discover emerging talents from across mediums and geographies. Staff members make recommendations, and Nassib makes studio visits.

“I’m looking for somebody with a unique stroke, works that are an expression of someone’s essence. People who are able to tap into that level of creativity can bring beautiful things into the world,” she says, later adding, “And of course, beauty is important.”