Design & Decoration S01 ep4: Emmanuel Moatti, Moatti Art Dealer, [Paris]

Interview with Emmanuel Moatti

When you show a picture to an Italian expert, he says Oh it is too reserved it must be French. Then you show it to a Northern specialist and he says oh it is too light, it is too easy on the subject, it must be French. So it is a kind of a combination of a certain Northern Rigors and then the Italian Brio.



Moatti is a firm that was created by myself but I come from the tradition of
second generation dealers.

Interviewer: What in the heck are you doing in the art world in the first place?

I couldn't do anything else.

Interviewer: When was your first experience with art?

It was a house auction, a big English country house, big metamore of the
Rothschild which was really a most incredible house, and they were selling off
everything. It was a two week sale or something like that, and I went with my
father ...

Interviewer: So your father was obviously looking to buy.

Well yes, he bought a lot of things there, and I was with him and we looked
around, and that is when I had this feeling , it was so wonderful .....

I did a Fine Arts type of degree which I don't regret anything. I went to the
Caurtault institute in London doing a BA in London then the idea of being in
business for me, was to get extra pocket money. It was really to build up
something, that is, until I did one big deal. I was doing mostly funny little
English watercolours of Paris and selling them to Sotherbys and two other
dealers in London which gave enough money to really enjoy myself, because I
had more money than any other student, but it was wonderful. And then at the
end of my stay in London I did one serious deal on a Rubens picture where I
was just a go-between and then my family came along and said you know you
have got X amount, why don't I put same amount and you start dealing with

Henry Dunay Jewellery

Where dealers can really make a difference is the personal relationship you
can build up with the client who would basically buy through my knowledge and
through my eyes. With them I am creating the ideal collection I would have
loved to do for myself and that is something an auction house cannot do.

I will very often buy a 1/2 share with people it is a way to spread the risk, to
spread the knowledge and to give more chance to the picture itself and also a
lot of dealers we have .... a lot of us are putting our own money and there is
always a limit to that, so it is a way to have enough cash to buy when
something new comes up.

Interviewer: What is your particular speciality?

From the 17th Century to 1830 French Art. I find French 17th Century, the first
part of the 17th Century very exciting. It is actually before the Sun King arrived
and organised all the French art and made it too organised. There is not a real
definition of French Art as such, there are schools, you have the French
School, the Provincial School, Province and all that, but all those other ones
have been created, it is almost like the New York School in the 50's that
created US, American Art in America with a specific American label. And here
we have a dozen people who created the French art.

Henry Dunay Jewellery

Interviewer: Well what is the French Art, how would you define it?

When you show a picture to an Italian expert, he says Oh it is too reserved it
must be French. Then you show it to a Northern specialist and he says oh it is
too light, it is too easy on the subject, it must be French. So it is a kind of a
combination of a certain Northern Rigors and then the Italian Brio.

Interviewer: So what did Louis the Sun King do which tended...

He created the French Academy, but in a way at the end of the 17th Century it
was going to rule French Art with a certain pattern. You know art had to look
like this, the iconography had to look like this so people had to fit into a

Interviewer: Seriously

Henry Dunay Jewellery

…then in the 18th Century there were people who went against it, and then in
the early 18th century there was something called the fight against Puisinist
and the Rubinion - you know they liked colour, they liked design and then
French art becomes again quite interesting and very original.

Interviewer: Who were, say the top 2 or 3 top artists of that period?

The way to look at it, and it is much easier with the old masters because we
have time with us and we see the whole scheme in front of us. So it is
important for an artist to look what was before that artist, what did he do and
what happened afterwards. So the world was not the same after he arrived
and obviously if you go from one country to another there is Caravaggio, I
mean Caravaggio made such a difference and had such a great influence in
Italy, in France.

Interviewer: Why, why did Caravaggio do that?

Because he was close to certain intellectual circle, but he was also a man of
his own a man who was quite close to the street, he used to sort of have fights
about him travelling, he was kind of a naughty boy. It was at a time where art
was coming out of Italy in a way, so I gather he is one, Rembrant is definitely
one, because he really .... when you look at his portraits (his most important
works) and you compare what was done in 1610 in Holland and what he
suddenly he managed to do. A freedom that he gives to the brush stroke, a
sense of light that he does is remarkable and it was understood right away by
dozens of artists.

Henry Dunay Jewellery

Another important one that had a great influence almost throughout two
centuries and was sometimes hard to understand in France, is Puissard. I
enjoy the idea of Puissard but I enjoy some of his pictures, but he has a great
great influence, a great intellectual influence even more on Davi or
videoclassism later, he was most understood 100 years later.

Louis XIV was a great collector and he commissioned so many things. The
commissions of Louis XIV were incredible, whether we like them or not that is
another story, but it was in a certain frame, in a certain royal frame, it had to
work this way. If you think of all the paintings that were done in Versailles, the
Ceiling of the Hall of Mirror I mean this is a whole story. It had a message,
which was I am the greatest and you have to understand that from my painting
-. It is propaganda - it may be a little annoying to us right now: it is a whole
vocabulary that for us is hard to understand today but that somebody that
would walk - I mean that is also one of the problems you find between an old
master and a modern I mean obviously today when you look at contemporary
and modern because you know we know the period, some of us were alive
then, and so on we share the same vocabulary and the same references of
those artists. But we don't share the reference of Roman Mythology in the
same way that a 17th Century man would do, any European that would walk
into Versaille would understand Allegory, would understand the meaning of
those pictures right away.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Emmanuel Moatti, Moatti Art Dealer, Paris