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Interview with Anu Bhat, Founder of The Rural Painter


Art curator Anu Bhat is the Founder of The Rural Painter, a shop that brings Southeast Asian art to the West. The Rural Painter is based out of Princeton, NJ and offers a variety of original, authentic, carefully hand-selected paintings from talented artists in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Nepal. The art uniquely evokes the cultural essence and Zen of Southeast Asia, making each piece a beautiful addition to any home.

In an interview with the Garden State Woman Education Foundation, Bhat shared her experience as an entrepreneur and art curator.

  • What was your inspiration and how did you get your business started?

Her business began as a result of a four-year posting in Singapore. Bhat had been traveling all across Southeast Asia and had the wonderful opportunity to see the art that the artists in those countries were creating. She felt inspired to add to her art collection, but she also wanted to create a platform for these artists to showcase their art in the West and internationally. It was through this inspiration that Bhat had the idea to begin The Rural Painter. After returning the US, she enrolled in Marie Forleo's B-School and incorporated her company as an LLC. She then connected with Southeast Asian artists, both up-and-coming and well-established artists, shared her idea with them, and brought an art collection back with her to the US. Bhat hosted a wine and cheese event that was very well received. And thus, in 2016, The Rural Painter was born. 

  • What is the art curation process like?

Bhat explains that the vetting process begins long before she makes a trip to Southeast Asia. She first visits a few countries, such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. She usually travels about twice a year to replenish their art collection. She brings the pieces to the US rolled up, and she gets them stretched and framed in New Jersey to ensure that the quality of the wood won't expand or contract due to changes in temperature. Bhat curates the collection based on requests from the market and from any preorders she receives. She explains that some customers let her know that they are looking for a specific type of art piece. For example, they may ask for one that is abstract or has a certain figure for their bedroom or living room. She also brings back pieces that she thinks would appeal to people in the US. She says that she is very passionate about the curation process and would not choose an art piece that she wouldn't personally hang on her wall. Bhat is introduced to the artists ahead of time and she communicates with them before she begins traveling so that she is familiar with their style.

  • How do you go about recommending a painting to a new customer?

One step Bhat takes when recommending a painting to a customer is asking them to send a picture of their space. Bhat takes into consideration the size of their space and their furniture to determine what piece would be best for them. Additionally, she asks them if they are looking for a black and white piece or if there are any particular colors they are attracted to. She also asks what kind of energy they want to bring into their home. Bhat shared a story of a customer who bought a 7x7 foot mandala in their entry foyer because they wanted that positive energy at the entrance of their home. She had another customer who wanted something very calm and serene in her bedroom. This customer bought a black and white picture of a Vietnamese lady fishing. The customer says it's a beautiful piece, and when she wakes up, she feels relaxed and ready for the day ahead. Bhat also sold a painting that had three Buddhas standing side by side to a customer who said that the Buddhas represents her past, present, and future. Bhat explained that part of recommending a painting is how the customer identifies with the art. She says it is her goal to bring relaxation and peace into people's home and to bring a conversation piece into their space. Bhat hopes to open people's eyes to different cultures, create an awareness of how life is lived in Southeast Asia, and bring positive energy to others.

  • Do you have a favorite painting?

Bhat says she is drawn to art that is created by female artists. Some customers specifically ask for art that is created by female artists in order to support them. Unfortunately, there aren't many, but The Rural Painter encourages female artists, supports, and promotes their art. Bhat's most favorite painting is her logo. She loves the monochromatic yellow and orange color palette. The painting brings her peace and serenity. Below are Bhat's logo, other beautiful paintings, and her look book that she shared with us.

Visit The Rural Painter at theruralpainter.com.

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