Bernard Buffet - Fleurs aux carreaux bleus, 1998

Bernard Buffet – Fleurs aux carreaux bleus, 1998

One of the perks of living in London is having access to the diversity and richness in so many things. The city has so much to offer, to start with- art galleries. Without a background in art, I almost never walked into any art galleries unless it is for work simply because I don’t understand it. So when I got a chance to meet Jean-David Malat, the director of the world famous Opera Gallery, I was a little panicking- will I look like a complete idiot in front of an expert who runs an art gallery and built it into a reputable brand?

The simple answer is No. As soon as I arrived the gallery, Jean-David was already there with his representative, greeting me warmly and welcoming me. (I thought I was late but I double checked, I was few minutes early- meaning they were even earlier.) He quickly put me at ease by being so understanding of my lack of art history knowledge. So I ended up spending a good afternoon at the gallery, chatting with Jean-David, who had been extremely patient in answering all my questions, and explaining to me the stories behind the paintings and the artists. The knowledge he has comes from a strong  base  in  the arts, specifically  in  Modern  Masters, and then the art training course he took at Sotheby’s, a lot of it he said also comes from the everyday job training.  An art collector himself,  he has some rare pieces of great artists like Banksy that he keeps safely at home. Went into the art industry by chance when he opened the London brand of Opera Gallery, discovering new talents from all over the world, and representing some very big names in the industry, Jean-David has built a reputation of himself and the Opera Gallery brand.

Since then,  he had collaborated  with  The  Heydar  Aliyev  Center  and  the  Fonds  de  Dotation  Bernard  Buffet  in  presenting  the  first  Bernard  Buffet  museum  retrospective  in  Baku,  Azerbaijan  in  2014.  ( the  first  comprehensive  reflective  exhibition  on  the  work  and  life  of  Bernard  Buffet,  one  of  the  most  famous  French  painters  of  the  century,  to  be  presented  in  this  country) .  During  the  spring  of  2014,   an  exhibition  of  rare  paintings  and  drawings  by  Marc  Chagall  with  the  intent  to  give  fellow  collectors  and  art  lovers  a  deeper  understanding  of  the  artist’s  techniques was held.   He has also sold  several  Picasso  masterpieces  from  the  later  period  of  the  artist’s  life,  two  of  which  were  acquired  during  the  recession  of  2008. Discovered and supported talented artists such as Icelander  painter  Óli  G.  Jóhannsson,  British  virtuoso  visual  artist  Joe  Black  and  German  hyperrealist  painter  Mike  Dargas and Spanish painter Lita Cabellut among the long list of names I can barely remember. What an impressive resume!

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Mike Dargas, the emerging German artist who was discovered by Jean-David Malat, his work has been described as the closest to photography.

 

Jean-David showed me around the gallery, explaining to me each and every piece of the art he has there. He is also the curator of the gallery, and as soon as he thinks something might look better on another wall, he will move everything around to make it right. (He does that in his own London home too, where is also an art gallery itself). From the Marc Chagall painting, to the sculpture of Alexander Calder that discreetly hangs above the staircase, Jean-David told me the stories behind each of them, and that makes a whole lot more senses to me when that background knowledge gap is now filled. One of my favourite is this piece by Lita Cabellut. I fell in love with the strong use of colour, strokes and the passion and energy that she poured into the work. The other one that I really liked is one of the paintings of Bernard Buffet, his striking colour and structure of the paintings are very strong and precise.

 

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Lita Cabellut- Color of Dew 34

Marc Chagall - Nature Morte, 1975

Marc Chagall – Nature Morte, 1975

He loves contemporary art in particular, and he would go as far as hopping onto the plane just to meet a new artist he saw on Instagram to see their work.

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Jean-David Malat, Director of Opera Gallery, an art collector himself, is highly supportive of talents from all over the world.

 

Today, Jean-David is an art dealer, a renowned  consultant  and  advisor  to  both  established  and  beginner  art  collectors, and  to  an  array  of  important  individuals  and  families  from  all  walks  of  life  –  ranging  from  fashion  VIPs  to  politicians  and  members  of  the  Royal  family.   To me, the easy going and friendly Jean-David is also a great teacher. Not only he generously shared his knowledge and patiently taught me something about art, he also gave me a book on Bernard Buffet’s life to read about, because I said one of his paintings is my favourite piece in the gallery. What made him so respectable in the industry is his genuine support and passion in discovering talented artists. A successful man like Jean-David has every right to be put on the pedestal, but his down-to-earth approach and respect for others earn him even more respect. It was such a pleasure having the chance to spend a good few hours with him.