Nish De Gruiter is the Senior Vice President and Chief Curator of RH Atelier and an avid collector of contemporary art, with a focus on emerging African artists.
“Art is an obsession for me,” confesses Nish de Gruiter, as he swipes through images of his collection on his phone. “I would spend all my money on art if I could.”
De Gruiter is the Senior Vice President and Chief Curator of RH Atelier and an avid collector of contemporary art, with a focus on emerging African artists. His collection is impressive, including works by artists such as Nina Chanel Abney, Josh Sperling, Amoako Boafo, Florine Demosthene, Firelei Báez, Do Ho Suh, Hiroki Tsukuda, and Elias Sime—many of whom he discovered and purchased through Artsy. A New Yorker by way of the Netherlands, de Gruiter recently stopped by Artsy’s headquarters in SoHo to share his Artsy experience, talk about his love for art, and tell us why he thinks the internet is essential to the art market’s expansion.
About Nish de Gruiter
De Gruiter’s interest in art grew out of his devotion to fashion and his life-long career in the industry. “Fashion and art are very close to each other—they’re both something that is being thought about and created,” de Gruiter remarks. “It wasn’t that long ago that art got very related to pop-culture, music, or streetwear. You had the whole Murakami x Vuitton collaboration and George Condo x Supreme. That’s when I started to get involved and dug a bit deeper and saw there was a bit more than that.”
Like many art collectors—veteran and new—de Gruiter began his foray into collecting with prints and small works he found intriguing. As his confidence grew and his taste matured, he began to explore more, both on the ground and online. Then, in 2013, he discovered Artsy.
“When you start researching different artists that you get exposed to or find at a fair or museum or small show—then you start Googling [and Artsy pops up],” de Gruiter explains. “Artsy is like a Wikipedia for artists. It is a platform that exposes you to exactly what’s going on. It shows you a great overview of who’s representing who, and the opening price point is straightforward. You hit one button and then you get information. It’s a very easy way to communicate with galleries from all over the world.”
Six years later, de Gruiter’s presence in the art world has evolved. Today, you can find him walking around an art fair, visiting an artist’s studio, exploring institutions around New York City, or helping out with the TWO x TWO Foundation for AIDS and Art in Dallas. Similarly, using Artsy has become second nature to de Gruiter. “I look at Artsy every day,” he admits.
Artsy is a platform that exposes you to exactly what’s going on. It shows you a great overview of who’s representing who. It’s a very easy way to communicate with galleries from all over the world. I look at Artsy everyday.
Nish de Gruiter
On some of the best works he’s found through Artsy
Amoako Boafo’s Sunflower Shirt, 2019, one of de Gruiter’s favorite works discovered via Artsy, catalyzed his ongoing friendship with the gallerist and Artsy partner Mariane Ibrahim. Since they connected, de Gruiter has purchased many works from Ibrahim, including pieces by emerging artists Jerrell Gibbs and Clotilde Jiménez.
“I saw an article about the artist Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi in the paper a few years ago. I thought to myself, ‘Wow,’” de Gruiter says. “I had never heard about this artist or saw her. So I typed it in on Artsy, and I saw that Mariane Ibrahim Gallery was representing her. Within 10 minutes, I got a reply. I think [Ibrahim] she Googled me in the meantime, because she said, ‘You’re related to Suitsupply, I love Suistudio—I’m a big client.’ So we both fed off each other’s work.”
The conversation continued, and not long after, Ibrahim introduced de Gruiter to Boafo’s work.
“Ibrahim said, ‘Yeah, Nkosi is sold out, but if you could tell me more about your collection, I think Amoako Boafo would be something for you,’” de Gruiter recalls. “I felt the approach from Ibrahim was, ‘I like your style and I like how you look at things.’ We started a great relationship. I bought a beautiful Amoako Boafo. The painting is phenomenal—it’s 180 by 160 centimeters, and it’s so cool.”
Not only has Artsy enabled de Gruiter to discover works that he loves, it’s also given him the opportunity to connect with gallerists around the world, despite not being in the same place.
“I bought a Nina Chanel Abney piece from Maruani Mercier Gallery in Brussels,” he shares. “On Artsy, you can follow artists that are hard to get, and with the [Artsy] app it shows up in your notifications when something is available. Within a week, we made a deal—if it wasn’t for Artsy, it wouldn’t have happened.”
I bought a Nina Chanel Abney piece from Maruani Mercier in Brussels. On Artsy, you can follow artists that are hard to get, and with the [Artsy] app it shows up in your notifications when something is available. Within a week, we made a deal—if it wasn’t for Artsy, it wouldn’t have happened.
Nish de Gruiter
On the transformative power of the internet, and why galleries should always respond to online inquiries
Working in a customer-centric industry like fashion, de Gruiter has experienced firsthand the importance of treating every client like they’re your most important client, whether they walk into your store or place an order online.
“I think it’s a miss if you don’t keep up with people who ask about art online,” de Gruiter says. “It’s a potential client. Why would you hit delete and never reach out again? It’s a loss for you.”
De Gruiter’s relationship with Perrotin, he notes, is a testament to the importance of valuing one’s customer.
He chuckles to himself. “I was always intimidated by Perrotin, but then I started reaching out on Artsy and visited the show from Daniel Arsham,” de Gruiter recalls. “We got approached by a very friendly girl named Ariel, which resulted in the purchase of a nice work from Arsham’s show in Hong Kong. I think if you talk to someone and they reply, you have a point of reference for when you go into the gallery. Through the internet, this has become more possible, and it’s phenomenal.”
You have to grab the young audience and you will win. If you don’t use the internet to promote your work or your message, who else do you want to preach to?
Nish de Gruiter
And as someone who found and connected with the art world largely through the internet, de Gruiter believes in the necessity and urgency for artists and gallerists to bring their works online. “As an artist, your exposure is the internet,” he says. “If you’re a young, up-and-coming artist or gallery and you don’t utilize the internet, good luck.”
As talk of slowed growth continues to buzz through the art industry, the online art market still managed to grow 11% year over year in 2019. As a native of the online art world, de Gruiter explains passionately that “you have to grab the young audience and you will win. If you don’t use the internet to promote your work or your message, who else do you want to preach to?”