In conversation with Sarah Ryan, founder and director of NewBloodArt

NewBloodArt is a niche / boutique online art gallery, selling unique, original art by carefully selected emerging artists.
We sat down with its founder and director, Sarah Ryan, to find out more about her background and work as a gallerist and the challenges she has encountered in selling art online.

Can you tell us a bit more about your background and what prompted you to establish New Blood Art?

I am an artist by background – I went to art college and then on to Homerton College, Cambridge, to complete a PGCE in Art education where I qualified to be a teacher and then I taught in various secondary schools for a while – in inner city London, overseas and my last teaching position was a gift of a job really, teaching art to dance students at The Royal Ballet School.  During my short teaching career (1998-2005) I always maintained an interest and a presence at degree shows.

Circling back further – when I was at art college I was keenly aware of how difficult it was for art students to sell their work.. I spent a lot of my time in the life drawing studio and would spend hours alongside other students producing quite high-quality charcoal drawings (even if I say so myself!) alongside a competent group of fellow art students – who were also producing high-quality original work – yet most of us were needing to take on part-time work in one place or another (in a bar or shop etc) to subsidise our studies..

I lived in a student house at the time with other students who weren’t studying art – and they were always really interested to see the artwork I bought back from college and I sold one or two to other students who wanted original art. This got me thinking … the galleries were dealing with higher priced works by more established artists, things like the Affordable Art Fair didn’t yet exist, yet people seemed to want to buy original art at truly affordable prices and artists wanted to sell it. It seemed a shame not to be able to connect the two. So that was the seed of the idea!
So after 2 years teaching in Botswana for the British Council and various conversations with different friends and phone calls with tutors and artists asking them what they thought of the idea – I decided to give it a go and went to see a web developer in Islington and it started from there in 2004. By 2005 I had given up my A level Art teaching at the Ballet School and was working full time on NewBloodArt.

Why did you decide to focus on emerging artists?

This was all in the seed of the idea really and from every side of the coin – for buyers, for artists for the scope of the internet (past a certain price point it can be tricky to sell high priced works) it works.
Accidentally the whole investment piece has developed – as I have discovered artists at degree shows who have gone on to do really well and their prices have increased we’ve gained a reputation from an alternative investment point of view. When you discover an artist at a degree show you are only playing the upside – their prices are as low as they will ever be, and you are also in some way influencing their success and encouraging them to go on – which in turn has an impact on their prices.
It’s win win all round.

Artist Orlanda Broom works with NewBloodArt

Why do you think more and more people are buying art online?

I think it’s the same reason people are buying everything online! Also pleasingly the internet has opened up the opportunity to buy original art to the many not just the few (and things like the Affordable Art Fair have really helped change the culture too) by offering more affordable work to a wider audience.
In other parts of Europe it has been common practice for the general public to buy original art and now I think it’s beginning to be integrated into the culture a bit more in the UK – which is lovely.

How did you find out about Own Art and what made you decide to join our network?

I saw Own Art in various galleries and thought it was a great initiative – for lots of reasons! For those that don’t have a disposable income that equates to the type of money you can splash out in one chunk it is brilliant –  so it supports first time buyers of art. I also love the interest free nature of it, I think it supports artists and the arts in general the UK – which is vital.
For buyers branching out into purchasing more expensive/investment pieces and spending a bit more on some work, to buy a painting for say £1000 and pay £100 a month for 10 months and yet to benefit from the enjoyment of the piece immediately is fantastic, and the piece might well be worth more by the time they’ve completed the last payment – which is quite feasible with emerging artists – so it’s a compelling offering.

artist Lindsay Mapes
Artist Lindsay Mapes works with NewBloodArt

What are your plans for the future of New Blood Art?

I am super aware at the moment that the online market is being somewhat overwhelmed with so many online galleries, so I really want us to get back to our core values and rather than worry about competing with bigger offerings, I want to remember what is at the heart of NewBloodArt: degree show tours, relationships with artists, tutors and clients and to keep on the talent search to discover those really talented young artists and give them their first hit of oxygen and hopefully provide a safe online space for them that they can trust.
Keeping it small and with it being just me – being able to oversee all the processes from discovering the artist, to publicising the artist, to speaking to the client, fulfilling the order – to have an overview of that whole process from start to finish is actually quite unusual in online retail, and I’ve realised lately that’s something I want to hold onto even if we stay very niche and ‘boutiquey’ and keep the numbers down. That’s my plan!

You can find out more about the criteria employed by NewBloodArt to select emerging artists here.