How to buy art for your Megayacht: Interview with Jean-David Malat on purchasing artwork
We sit down with Jean-David Malat, the director of the Opera Gallery to peak into his world of art and yachts—the perfect combination
Jean-David Malat, a Parisian from a long line of collectors, joined Opera Gallery in 2005 and initiated the opening of the London branch. His expertise has led to a successful career in which he has advised and overseen several very
important collections for fashion VIPs to members of the Royal Family. I sit down with the Director of the gallery, situated on the world-famous Bond Street, to discuss art for your megayacht.
What are your top 5 things to consider when purchasing art for a megayacht?
1. CONNECT WITH THE SPACE
First, you need to get a feel of the yacht: understanding its design, style, and its creative space. When I curate art for a yacht, I always take the opportunity to stay aboard for a few days. This enables you to have a real connection with the yacht, to get a good feeling of the ambiance and to ultimately attain a strong understanding of what is needed on the walls. I always work closely with the interior designer of the megayachts, to understand their inspiration along with the owners. I look at the wall size, the colour of the walls and the atmosphere in that room. A key factor to remember when buying art for a yacht is that it is like buying art for a Villa, or a holiday home. It is a social place where you’d like to have guests, relax and enjoy yourself. The art will take an important place within the yacht and will be seen by many people.
This is a very important aspect when selecting art. I have had clients with no budget, so I have gone wild with art like Bacon, Richter, Basquiat, etc., but most of the time, budget will affect what you are buying, especially if you are getting commissioned pieces by artists. Make your budget known.
Many owners prefer to have art by artists from their own country. Last year I helped an interior designer for a yacht that had an American owner, and they only wanted American artists.
Strong insurance and a good premium do not come cheap unfortunately.
This includes how to hang the painting, the movement of the yacht, any environmental humidity etc. A few years back, I sold a beautiful Warhol piece and delivered it myself in Monaco. We hung it beautifully, only to find out a few days later that it needed a Plexiglas on the painting for insurance purposes.
What are some current trends in the art market?
South Korean artists represent our five bestselling artworks at the moment. Sculptors like Seo Young Deok or innovative mixed media artists such as Ran Hwang have now entered collections alongside renowned international artists. Lee Ufan is perhaps one of the best- known practicing South Korean artists. His £1 million “With Winds” chased the hammer prices achieved by Gerhard Richter and Jean- Michel Basquiat at Sotheby’s this October.
I love figurative paintings, but for yachts, it is more popular to go with abstract art by Eduardo Guelfenbein and Icelandic artist Oli G. Johannsson.
Any difference in selling art for a megayacht, rather than for a home or office?
There is no real difference. All the key factors stay the same, be it paintings, photographs or sculptures. However, it is very exciting to build a relationship with the yacht. Buying art is something very personal so you want to be directly involved. I am very lucky that I always become friends with my clients. I go and stay with them on their yachts and really build a strong relationship with them.
At the Opera Gallery, we deal with modern and contemporary art, as well as those from the 20th Century. The most interesting point of being an art dealer is finding up-and-coming artists, and putting them on the international scene. Two examples of this recently: a young German Artist, Mike Dargas, whom I discovered through Instagram, and Joe Black whom I discovered in a small London exhibition are now both huge successes. A Joe Black piece went for US$80,000, six times the amount he was selling for a few years back. This is amazing to see and be a part of.
Which is the most expensive piece of art you’ve sold for a yacht?
A couple years ago, I sold a few masterpieces for a megayacht. They only wanted Warhol paintings and original edition prints for the bedrooms, like the Jackie Kennedy canvas portrait. However, I think my biggest sale was to an Italian client. It was two large Lucio Fontana pictures for several million dollars!
This article was first published in Yacht Style 37.