From her art-filled gallery in New York, artist-designer Oshi Rabin chronicles people’s lives. Each project she undertakes expresses someone’s hopes, dreams, aspirations, and values. With deep insight, Rabin weaves these stories together into stunning interior spaces that narrate her client’s innermost self.
Wanting to share her passion for art, Rabin founded Mahlstedt Gallery in 2012. “The gallery started as a mission, not as a business. A place to showcase and share my art collection,” she says. “But when we opened, people wanted to buy everything. They asked me to design and curate their own spaces. Everything happened overnight.”
Since this time, she has carved her own niche as a successful businesswoman in the competitive art world by offering a unique, highly personalized approach that blends art curation with interior design. Getting to know each client intimately, she conceptualizes their spaces, seamlessly blending the artwork into their lives.
A painter and sculptor in her own right, Rabin learned early on how personal art can be while growing up in her native Israel. Knowing this, Rabin applies a placemaking approach to every project, be it a small room, a boutique hotel lobby, or a city gateway. “Placemaking starts with research—we study the community, their history, their stories. We develop a deep understanding of how the neighborhood visualizes itself,” says Rabin. She then uses her network to connect these communities to a meticulously selected roster of artists and artisans who fabricate the work and translate those stories into art.
Though placemaking is typically a concept applied in public spaces, Rabin sees the transformative effects it has when applied to private interiors as well. While some interior designers are known for their own particular style, Rabin’s style morphs based on the person for whom she’s designing. Her holistic approach is not unlike that of famous designers like William Morris and Joseph Hoffmann who conceived of architectural spaces as total works of art. It allows Rabin to create interiors that celebrate the individuality of each client down to the smallest detail.
To do this, she starts each project with a conversation, getting to know the inhabitants at a deeply personal level. “I study people, not spaces,” says Rabin. “A lot of designers see an empty wall and look for something to fill it. But I get to know the people first. Instead of just filling a room, I want to compose a narrative of the people inside, a story told from their own perspective. I want you to sit in the room and say to yourself, ‘Yes, this is me,’” she explains.
Rabin’s understanding and effective navigation through the complexities of the art market has earned her an international reputation. She acts as an artist agent for over 70 world-renown and emerging talent, including prestigious artists like Tonalist painter Maurice Sapiro and Italian sculptor Bruno Bruni. This curation allows her to act as matchmaker, quickly pairing the right art with the right client. Rabin’s work has resulted in several successful matches world-wide, connecting her artists with influential people from places including Zurich, Barcelona, and Tel-Aviv.
When not tending to her clients and artists, Rabin creates her own work in a range of media. Though her artwork varies in styles from large-scale abstract paintings to Surrealist mixed metal sculpture, Rabin’s work often reflects an emotional, dream-like nature. For example, a sculpture titled “Firmament” is named after the Biblical dome that God created to contain the heavens. In Rabin’s hands the name tells the story of humanity and life itself. Impressive arcs of stainless-steel rise from the ground, reflecting the landscape around them. Between these towers five candy-colored bronze birds fly around a globe-shaped cage. “The birds are a metaphor for us, the people,” she explains, “while the sphere resembles the world. You can move in and out, but don’t trap yourself.”
Such storytelling, in essence, is the approach she applies to all her work, including interiors. “Everything works together,” she explains. “I love finding things and bringing them into the story. The art is always there. You just have to look for it and make it part of you.”