Written by Emilia Sharples and Lucia Guercio
Meet the founder of New Fine Art Exchange (NFAE), Iona Bielby in this cozy Q&A! We are super excited about NFAE and are huge fans of the artists and work promoted on this platform. NFAE makes it engaging, enjoyable and most importantly accessible for Millennials and Gen Z to purchase art and become a part of a new era of buying and owning art! Check out their site below and purchase some pretty art while you're there!
First of all, tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! My name is Iona and I'm a final year student at the University of St Andrews studying art history. I'm from London but went to school in Boston so I have the classic transatlantic identity crisis underscored by a really annoying half American half English accent. I come from a family filled with creatives so the arts have always been an informative influence on how I view the world.
When did you become inspired to create NFAE?
In my gap year I attended an art business course at Sotheby's Institute. The final project was to create a business and pitch it to a board of investors. My group created an art advisory company that was tailored to the aesthetic taste and financial budget of Millenials. NFAE is not the same company, but this experience allowed me to recognise that there is a huge gap in the art market: young people with disposable income who want to buy art but don't know where to start. On top of this, I also realised that most art galleries promote the same slick and minimal aesthetic, which I wanted to move away from in order to promote a more inclusive and relatable brand. So I created NFAE as a slightly rebellious response to an art market that's known for being socially and economically inaccessible.
How do you choose which artists you collaborate with?
Essentially a small team and I analyse trends in the art market, social media, search engines, fashion, culture and politics to try and predict what type of aesthetic is going to emerge as desirable to Gen Z/Millennial consumers. This is why if you go to our website you can see that the type of work we take is very specific, which creates an aesthetic that hopefully reflects current consumer tastes. For me, choosing artists is the most exciting part of running the company - especially when we choose an artist that hasn't sold much in the past and they end up selling out in the first week on the site. I love building the confidence and personal brands of my artists.
A particular artist you would love to have?
I would love to feature works by Ana Leovy, who we've gushed about a few times on the NFAE Instagram (she's a big girl crush of ours). She's a Mexican artist whose works depict a fusion between reality and fantasy. Her art is colourful, ephemeral and magical and I could honestly look at it all day. I'd say if Hilma af Klint, Matisse and Picasso had a baby it would be Ana Leovy. I highly recommend following her instagram @analeovy_art.
Have you considered transforming this project into your future career?
The response from our initial launch was so positively overwhelming that I actually had to quit my summer internship to keep up with it all, so turning it into a future career is definitely something I've considered. I love the company I've created so far and my gut is telling me that there is still a lot more to come from NFAE. Saying this, I think I'd like to keep it as a lucrative passion project alongside my studies and future career, so I have time to watch it evolve while learning a few life lessons along the way. If an opportunity presents itself where NFAE has the potential to blow up into something bigger, then I'll be open to pursuing it full-time. But for now, I'm really enjoying the process of building and creating something I'm proud of while making lots of mistakes along the way.
Since you are a student, what kind of artworks would suggest fellow students to (consider) buy(ing) during their time at university?
Buy works that you like! The power a piece of art has to transform a space is undescribable. I think the biggest mistake students make is thinking that it's not worth buying any art because it's too expensive. If you're at university and you don't want to make a large financial commitment, I would suggest buying a print instead of an original painting. We have lots of prints for sale on our website because we know the struggle of wanting to buy a cool, original piece of art without wanting to spend too much. So far, the most frequent feedback I get from customers who are students is how unexpectedly excited they are to hang their first piece of art in their new flats or rooms. It's very rewarding to watch people fall in love with buying art for the first time.
What is your dream auction to attend?
I'd love to attend a contemporary art evening auction at Sotheby's in person as I've only watched them online. On my art business course, we were trained how to operate in auction rooms, which also gave me a new appreciation for the fast-paced, tense and electrifying environment. The ultimate goal of course would be to attend a Sotheby's auction that one of my own artists is featured in!
What is your “go-to” place to “see art."
As cliché as it sounds, I think Paris will always be the ultimate destination to see art in all shapes and forms. Not only do you have the classic museums like Musée d'Orsay, the Louvre and Musée de l'Orangerie but you're also exposed to the city that inspired so many of the greats - Picasso, Rodin, Monet, Degas and countless others. Wandering the city is like a big "ah-ha" moment for those who study art history, as one can physically connect the dots between different movements and artists. Paris is also interesting because it's produced intellectually stimulating films like La Haine and New Wave artists like Jean Luc Godard. The juxtaposition of the city's elegance and grit is the best place to be exposed to art's full effect.
What have you been up to during Covid and in what other ways has art helped other than NFAE?
I created my company! It had been an idea in my head for years, and because my dream internship was cancelled, I decided to use my spare time (and a fair dose of self pity) to finally create NFAE. For me, Covid has allowed me to take a step back and reconnect with art. Because art history is my degree, it's easy to forget that art is fun and interesting and a privilege to enjoy. Although I've been too busy running the company to produce any substantial art myself, I know that a lot of my artists have used art as their outlet to manage the anxiety that the current state of the world inflicts on most of us. So I suppose art has helped me during Covid as it's found its way back to me as a passion rather than a chore.
NFAE is a refreshing and innovative way to view the art market and provides a fresh chapter for new generations to purchase and own their own art while also promoting new and upcoming artists and creatives, allowing a platform for them to reach an audience. We are in love and we hope you are too!