I-MAGAZINE Interviews London-based Art Dealer, Curator And Founder of the JD Malat Gallery in Mayfair, Jean-David Malat

How did you start your career journey in the art world?

I started my career in the art business back in 2005. I was in fashion for many years before that and in 2005 I took up the opportunity to jump into the art world. After only a few weeks in the industry I started art dealing. I worked for some commercial galleries whilst also attending courses at Sotheby’s to get a strong understanding of the basics in the art sector. While the courses were very insightful, I would definitely say that you learn most through experience.

Did you have any role models in the art industry when you were growing up, or were there any particular artists who inspired you?

My mother took me to many museums and galleries in Paris while I was growing up. Those early experiences definitely left a mark on me, I remember visiting Musee d’Orsay and Le Louvres with my sisters and I remember thinking how interesting their permanent collections are.

What prompted you to open your own gallery?

I think you need your independence after working for other people for while. I always knew I wanted to go in my own direction, and I knew exactly what I wanted to create. To be honest, when you are 40 years old, you don’t want people telling you what to do. So opening up my own gallery gave me the creative freedom that I had always really wanted, it was the best decision I ever made.

How do you select which artists you sign to JD Malat Gallery, and which artists you show?

I don’t have a specific method when it comes to selecting artists to join my gallery roster. Ultimately it is based on my overall feeling about the artwork and the artist. While my interest will initially stem from their art, I believe fostering strong connections and developing a good relationship with an artist is equally important, so there are many aspects to consider. I currently represent 20 artists. I would love more, but these things take time because it’s not just about doing a show or selling them, it is a long process and that takes careful consideration. The last artist I discovered was during ‘Isolation Mastered’, an open call exhibition for UK based artists. We received over 1000 applications and chose our top 25 artists to exhibit in the show. It was so exciting because I discovered Kojo Marfo. His work is so unique and powerful and we got on really well, I had to sign him.

How has the last year impacted and changed business in the art world?

It changed a lot, but funnily enough we were already prepared. I have a young and dynamic team, so we were already preparing online exhibitions and Virtual Reality tours, so when we closed the gallery in March, we simply had to double up our energy. We kept going with projects and I kept my whole team during the lockdown, which was the most important for me. In general, I think the art world is adapting to the change, people are making the move onto

online platforms and taking the time to think about new ways of engaging people. You can see that the response has been good, just take a look at the recent auctions.

What does the future of the art world look like following 2020?

This is a good question. Many galleries will say online, so I truly think it is important and we need to adapt, but I wouldn’t say this is the future of galleries. Collectors still want to go to galleries to see the art in person and discuss with the gallerist. You can’t beat an in-person experience.

What is the best thing about your job?

I would definitely say discovering artists and promoting them. I’m sure many gallerists would agree that it is really rewarding to give up and coming artists opportunities where they can. It’s also a great feeling to open up a collector’s eye to these new artists, especially when your collectors really believe in you.

If you could give a number on tip for achieving success, particularly in the art and business field, what would it be?

You need to work hard, and always give your 100%. It also helps to be well connected.

Do you still have the same passion for art and business as you did when you first started out?

I love what I do, I am in the gallery every day from opening time until closing time. It is a real passion; I am passionate about my artists and I am very happy to have a great team.

Do you have any business role models?

I don’t have a business role model. I think it’s important to follow your own direction. I am not aiming to be another gallerist. As JD Malat I have built a successful business. We have done really well already in just three years, and we keep growing. For instance, we have been accepted at Untitled Art Fair, Miami which I truly think is a good step for the gallery.

How important is philanthropy to you? If at all, and are you involved with any charities or foundations?

Yes, it is very important to be involved in charities, I try to help as much as I can. I am always happy to collaborate with my artists on donations for specific charities and causes. I have also been a patron of the Serpentine, Royal Academy and Tate.

What is your advice to aspiring artists and art curators?

My advice for aspiring artists is to focus and work as much as they can. When an artist creates artworks just to make money, it can often present an obstacle for their creative expression, so I think this is always a problem that artists should aim to avoid. I understand the need for income; however, passion should come first, then they can begin developing connections and trust with a gallerist. I believe the gallerist should be the person that deals the art. For aspiring curators, I would suggest learn as much as you can, through books, talks and lectures, as well as gaining practical experience where you can.

What do you get up to in your spare time?

I don’t have much spare time, especially as this is my own business, but when I do, I try to spend as much time as I can with my children.