Oshi Rabin is devoted to art, in all its forms.
Visitors to Mahlstedt Gallery in New Rochelle on a recent morning can come to no other conclusion after meeting with its founder and executive director.
Rabin’s enthusiasm is catching as she leads us on an informal tour that touches on everything from the beauty of the columns on the historic building’s façade to the intricate period mantel anchoring the gallery space to the artwork that not only fills that space but also every office, conference room, hallway, lounge and stairwell we encounter.
Rabin is taking us through what she calls, “the new art destination of Westchester.”
“We’re proud to be here,” she says, looking back over quite a journey. “It has a history.”
Indeed, the stately, Neoclassical Revival building on Huguenot Street went through a major renovation that paid homage to its 1920 creation as the home of the J.A. Mahlstedt Lumber and Coal Co.
“It was nothing like what you see now,” Rabin says of the building that the gallery and its e-commerce arm today share with Parchem — Fine & Specialty Chemicals, the company headed by Rabin’s husband, Ephraim.
Such respect for history — from the gallery name to the restoration that earned a 2010 Heritage Award from the city of New Rochelle — lives alongside a keen eye trained on the contemporary art world.
That eye has led to a virtual explosion of oil paintings and acrylics, bronzes and digital works that leaves no space unadorned.
“We have a 10,000-square-foot curated art facility here,” Oshi Rabin says, with the ground floor filled by the formal, 2,000-square-foot gallery and event space.
It is there that Rabin almost reluctantly admits that the striking Surreal and steampunk-influenced sculptures on display are by her own hand, worked on at studios in White Plains or her New Rochelle home with casting done in New Canaan.
But she’ll stress that her first gallery venture, officially launched in 2013, came not as an outgrowth of her work.
“We’ve been collecting for years,” she says. “I’m coming from this world as a buyer, as a collector.”
Born and raised in Israel — her husband grew up in New Rochelle — Rabin says they were world travelers who settled in Westchester but continue to cross the globe in pursuit of art.
Through it all, Rabin says she has come to understand the true nature of art.
“Art doesn’t have to be expensive to be valuable. It’s all about the narrative, what it means to you.”
Rabin savors sharing stories of the work on display here, one moment pointing to pieces by Connecticut artist Maurice Sapiro, whom Rabin says “specializes in realism, tonalism, influenced by Turner.” Then, it’s on to MALO (Nico Amortegui), whose oversize work echoes Basquiat. Along the way, Regev Markowitz, director of marketing, will pull up examples of Surrealist works by England’s Philip McKay on the computer to demonstrate the gallery’s online presence.
Rabin says the gallery sells original works from $200 to $50,000, while limited-edition prints generally fall under $300.
“The art world is completely, completely changed now,” she says. “It’s not conservative, elite… I always say art should be accessible to everyone.”
And it’s no longer based on location, as Markowitz adds.
“Someone in Spain can browse our pieces on our website.” Most of Mahlstedt’s artists are exclusive, with many more hoping to join the worldwide roster of some 70-strong.
But Rabin says, “For every two or three hundred, we might pick one.”
It’s not based on taste, she adds.
“It’s also personality, what they’re all about, the style, how can I represent them perfectly, introduce them to collectors.”
Among Mahlstedt’s clients are avid collectors, young homeowners, interior designers, hotels and corporate headquarters with art advisory services starting with consultations and including everything from curation to installation. The gallery also collaborates on public-art initiatives in New Rochelle and with numerous nonprofit causes.
No matter the project, Mahlstedt will use archival materials and offer limited-edition work, reflections of its commitment to service.
“There’s a lot of e-commerce now, and anyone can offer an online gallery. The difference is we actually select each image, each painting, each work of art,” Rabin says. “It’s all curated, pre-selected, the best of the best of what the artist has to offer.”
With a slate of gallery shows plus the company set to begin showcasing home-décor goods from Italy in coming weeks, the commitment to the power of art, of all styles and from all lands, remains integral to Mahlstedt’s mission.
As Rabin says, “The best way to learn about the people is through the art.”
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