Act One

Ex-Soho House curator, Fenella Brownlee and art consultant Jenny Webber have joined forces to create Act One, an accessible new platform for contemporary art. A breath of fresh air in the art world, we meet the duo ahead of their first exhibition that opens in Fitzrovia next week with artworks from £200.

A Little Bird - Emma Gale Bananas, Papaya and Passionfruit on Chequered Textile by Emma Gale
A Little Bird - Act One
Fenella Brownlee (left) and Jenny Webber (right)

Could you tell us a little bit about your backgrounds? 

We both studied History of Art separately at the university – Fenella then worked for Deutsche Bank assisting at Frieze Art Fair, and then worked at Soho House as a curator in the art team. Jenny worked for both Portland and Maddox Gallery specialising in modern British and contemporary art. Now we both have our own private art consultancy businesses.


What made you decide to start Act One? 

We met through a mutual love of art, we have a very similar taste. In lockdown we both had endless friends and clients asking for help with artwork at their homes, a lot felt overwhelmed at where to start whilst staring at a blank wall at home. We realised there was a gap in the market for this, we wanted to make buying art an accessible, enjoying, welcoming experience for everyone.

How do you choose the artists you show? 

F: We have a very strong mantra of ‘would we want this in our own homes’ and we’ve held that in mind when curating this show. At times we’ve had to be reined in to not buy the works ourselves!

J: We’re always looking for great talent. We found the artists in Act One by going to degree shows, forensically combing Instagram, and by speaking to artists and collectors we respect about the artists they’re excited about. We believe the final line-up has a very bright future ahead.

What will the exhibition be like?

We want it to be a welcoming environment, a colourful mix of contemporary art; from original works, to editions, to photography – we hope there’s something for everyone, from a first time buyer to an avid collector. We’ve meticulously chosen every single piece, whether for a bedroom, or a bathroom, or even in a child’s bedroom – we’ve visualised this for our clients to make it easy for them. Prices start from £200.

Studio Lenca, Dancing Downtown, 2022
A Little Bird - Act One
Rosie Harbottle, Strawflowers & Astrantia

What do you want art to do in your homes? 

An artwork should never be a background object, it shouldn’t be there to match the cushions. It should be emotive, make you stop and stare and spark a passion.

What’s your advice for new art collectors? 

F: Go with your gut. Artwork is entirely subjective, just don’t overthink it.

J: Find an early career artist and follow their progress, supporting them when you can by buying their work. It’s the most rewarding and savvy way of collecting. And…you only regret the ones that you didn’t buy!

What’s your favourite painting in the world? 

F: The Water Lilies by Claude Monet at Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris. I could spend an entire day there transfixed.

J: Ophelia by John Everett Millais – I’m obsessed with Emily Ponsonby’s swimmers that are in the show. They’re a beautiful, contemporary take on the subject matter.

A Little Bird - Millais Ophelia
Sir John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1851–2
A Little Bird - Emily Ponsonby
Emily Ponsonby, Clouds Upon My Eyelids, 2022

Finally, what’s your favourite London art gallery or current exhibition? 

F: The Courtauld’s recent refurbishment and art collection is spectacular.

J: The Milton Avery exhibition at the Royal Academy. A good tip to find the best new exhibitions is to sign up to Seb’s Art List – he does all the hard work for you!

Act One opens at NoHo Showrooms, 67 Great Titchfield Street on 5th September and runs until 11th September. Discover over 30 contemporary artists with prices from £200 both at the exhibition and online from 9am on 5th September at

Act One
5 - 10 September
NoHo Showrooms, 67 Great Titchfield Street, W1W 7PT
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