Jean-David Malat the most elegant Art Dealer in New Bond Street


Jean- David Malat embodies the union between the aesthetics of fashion and art.
Maybe it’s his French melodic accent, his good manners, his elegant clothes, or maybe is a combination of all. The thing is, Jean-David Malat transmits a sense of confidence and trust, the kind of person you would accept advice from.

Born and raised in Paris, Jean-David Malat received the great heritage of The Vanguards of the 19th and 20th century and the glamour of the French haute couture, he started out as an actor before moving to London and doing Fashion, this was all an excellent base to open and enter the art business in LONDON, back 2000.

You are an art dealer and curator, what made you want to venture yourself into the art world in the first place?

 I grew up in Paris and since a very young age my mother took me to the museums in Paris. Every week I used to visit The Musée d’Orsay, Muséum de Toulouse, Louvre… There, I learned to appreciate and have a sensibility towards the expressions of art.

The first steps in my work were not directly related to art, or art business, in fact my first job was as an actor in Paris, were I performed some plays, some programs fro TV and commercial. After that, I started doing Fashion and decided I would like to move to London. In London I fell in love with art and I decided to change Fashion for Art. I did a course at doing at Sotheby, where I learned many things about business of art and history of art.

In 2004 I met Gilles Dyan, with whom I partnered with to open a gallery in 2005.

So you could say that my encounter with the business of art was a personal decision, although the sensibility for the aesthetics and the sublime had always accompanied me and guided me to where I am now.

London vs Paris?

They are both amazing cities. I personally wouldn’t move back to Paris to live. It’s a beautiful city, and it is culturally very strong, in terms of exhibitions but now London is the centre of the art world, like Paris was during the first decades of the 20th century. In London you can find people from all over the world, it is the place to be. 

How was the transition from fashion to art?

I remember when I began in art business I met an important art dealer. He told me that many years ago a lot of artists didn’t have money to buy clothes/suits so they would trade paintings for clothes, and so, many designers became art collectors because they had so many paintings. The connexion between fashion and art was very special. I feel very lucky working in art in a daily basis. Art is something that was always part of my education, but as a business it was a big challenge.

Modern art, contemporary, emerging, discovering new values? A combination? What is the curatorial politics for the Opera Gallery?

Our concept is to deal with masterpieces such as Picasso, Chagall, Renoir… and to mix them with well known and upcoming contemporary artists.
We believe there are no borders in art, and therefore we are open to represent artists from all over the world.
Upcoming contemporary artist are a big part of our business, it is very interesting and its more personal. I deal with big renowned artist, it is of course very exciting, but it is a very special feeling when you sell a painting of an upcoming artist that you discovered.

 What is a network of art galleries? Do they all have the same philosophy with regards to a certain type of art? 

Opera Gallery has a very unique concept; we are in main cities all over the world. We just opened a new Gallery in NY in Madison Av. and 67 St. We are in Paris, Monaco, Geneva, Miami, Dubai, Beirut, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul… Opera Gallery is a big organization, we are a network of galleries and it’s like a brand. We provide a very professional service, easy and secure for those collectors that travel all over the world, or move quite often. They don’t have to worry about the shipping, the taxes, the insurances, they know everything will be in good conditions.

It is also great for emerging artists, we give them a chance to be international, to exhibit their work in important collections, museums, etc. It is difficult for a young artist, it is very competitive and there is a lot of talent out of the light. When we believe in someone we support their work with determination.


Jean-David Malat next to “Standing Guard” by Marc Sijan

 In 2011, London Loves Business accredited you with “a legacy of plucking artists from obscurity – or off the street – and making them international”.

I understand you have a very peculiar way of finding artist. Can you tell us a bit more about that process of discovering and selling an artist’s work?

The next upcoming show in London Opera Gallery will exhibit the work of Mike Dargas, an artist I discovered through Instagram. There is no one-way to discover artists, there are no rules. I saw his work in Instagram and followed the artist for a few weeks before getting in touch. Later I travelled to Cologne, to meet the him. There are not many galleries that give an upcoming artist a platform to show their work and become international.

Once a week I try to see artists; our group receives 100 requests per week to meet artist. I personally look at every request with my assistant and try to respond to everyone.

Personally, which is the artist you feel most proud of discovering and representing?

In 2005 I was just starting in the art business, when I came across Oli G. Johansson from Iceland on of the first artists I would present. His paintings were abstract, vibrant and full of gesture. I let myself be carried away for a personal rather than commercial intuition.

I flew to Iceland to see him; it was a crazy adventure. I landed in Reykjavik and then I drove for 7 hours in the middle of the mountains to Akureyri. I found Oli, a 60 years old man with white hair and beard, with clear eyes, in his studio. We got along very well from the beginning.

We organised his first exhibition in London few months later, a big one in NY and in 2006 in Dubai. I became very international. He passed away 5 years ago, I have just released a book about him. It brings a sense of accomplishment, as an art dealer, to know that you gave a talented artist the visibility and recognition of his work.

Will Galleries exist in 25 Years?

Certainly, now many things are done online, but I think that art galleries will always be there. You can buy art online, like engravings, or small artwork, but people still enjoy buying from galleries and seeing the work personally before making an important acquisition, it is all part of the experience.

Does the traditional role of discovering and setting trends remain in the case of the Opera gallery? Of patronage, support and guide of the artist or has it evolved into an economic securities portfolio where what is important is the investment the client will make?

We have 10-12 artists that we work with to make them well known; we invite people to invest in their work. Some of them end up being extremely successful, for example, we represent a Spanish artist called Lita Cabellut for 10 years. Back in 2005 some of my clients bought some of her art work priced around 5-10 thousand pounds, now those pieces would be valued around 60-80 thousand pounds in the market price. There are few pieces in the market and there is a high demand.

What is the relationship between the artist and the Gallery, how is it evolving in the last years?

I believe that artists need galleries and galleries need artists. I think it’s wrong when artists try to sell without a gallery. If an artist sells directly to a client it is strange. The gallery is the step between the artist and the client and knows how to promote an artist. As an art dealer you are pushing out the story of the artists told through their paintings. It is important when you deal with an artist, or you deal with a moment in his life, the feeling and connection you build with him. This is something that will not change because it is part of the human relations.

 You must know very well the world of the auctions, are they considered competitors in the art market? Is there a difference between buying an artwork in a gallery and an auction?

The auctions house are dealers, like galleries. Some people believe that when they buy from an auction house they make a better deal but you may spend more money if you buy in an auction than in a gallery. You have the premium, the shipping, the insurance, etc. Auction are very important because they reflect the market. I would advice people to buy from a gallery, I run a gallery myself, if you buy an art work in auction, what you bought will be in internet and people if you want to sell will know how much you paid for it. It is less private.

 Could you give us a suggestion for a new art buyer?

Yes, it is good to start the collection with what you like, since it is something you will probably have in your house. So most importantly look at something that you are attracted to. It is good to ask for advise from an art dealer to guide you towards a good investment. Go to galleries, art fairs, with a set budget of what you want to spend.

Collecting art is addictive, if you buy well you will buy more. Many of the clients I deal with are young bankers; they ask me for advice and I always say, go for original work rather than a print. It is nice to have a print from Warhol or Murakami, but a print is an edition and it will cost you approximately the same as an original work from an upcoming contemporary artist. A real painting by the artist is a moment of the life of the artist done by him, and that is unique. I think its something I would advice to consider.

What’s next for the Opera Gallery?

 Next exhibition at London Opera Gallery will be showing the work by the German artist Mike Dargas.

Born in Cologne, Germany, in 1983 Mike Dargas has mastered hyperrealism. He started out copying old master paintings with chalk into the pavement in front of Cologne Cathedral. Learned to master classical drawing and sculpturing techniques in the art school in which he was the only child amongst adults to graduate. In his twenties he won numerous prizes as a tattoo artist, his work was inspired in artists such as Dali or Caravaggio. His technique with oil painting has led him to develop a photographic style, portraying young, old, beautiful and dark, fragile and strong. In his paintings he captures the perfect image creating astonishing images that seem to come to life.

Mike Dargas has created 8 to10 new pieces for the upcoming show. He has been working in this show for over a year but it takes him 2-3 months to work in one painting.

Visit: From the 6th to the 20th of July MIKE DARGAS at OPERA GALLERY.

Opera Gallery
134 New Bond Street,
United Kingdom