Malo Girod de l’Ain came to art in a roundabout way. A Parisian through and through, his aunt, Hélène Girod de l’Ain, was a famous artist and his parents’ home still hosts a number of delightful paintings. He enjoyed art as a hobby but loved innovation and technology. As a result he attended a science college studying engineering. Science courses were not focused but rather covered all fields. This gifted Malo with the ability to learn on the fly.
“The university taught me to learn how to learn.”
After qualifying Malo wanted to work in New York and sent off various letters to consulting firms that did not answer. Undeterred, Malo packed two suitcases and headed off to New York arriving on the office doorsteps. He was offered jobs in two firms and worked in New York for the year.
“I did not want to be an American and so I returned home.”
He also did not want to be an engineer but rather chose to be an entrepreneur. He founded his first company as a consultant company, but soon had opened many more in the fields of technology, software, CD-ROMs, the internet, content sites and new media art production.
An introduction by a friend led to Malo designing the first official website for the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. He was moving his interest in technology over to the creative, artistic world. He travelled backwards and forwards to Silicon Valley and kept up to date on all the new technical innovations.
“There is something in human creativity that really interests me, whether is it painting or design, especially as we live in accelerated times. An artist is one of the most innovative of people and we can discover through their work how to look at the world with new eyes. Artists can reinvent the world and showcase what is happening and explain new ideas to the universe.”
Malo opened a publishing house which produced non-fiction books looking at ideas that were changing the world. Malo published the first book on blogs, a new phenomenon at the time. This was the era of electronic books and Malo viewed books not a physical collection of papers bound together but a means of creating a community. Ten years ago, this convergence of art and technology led Malo to found the first international digital art production company.
“Our artists were digital, new media artists,” he explains. “And our customers were large corporates or government departments. We provided digital art B2B.”
Malo’s artists developed impressive art installations for events or sometimes as permanent fixtures. One project which holds pride of place in his memory was a bid to renovate the pedestrian underground tunnel that led into Paris’s Stade de France stadium. The tunnel was dark and depressing. Malo’s successful bid saw more than 250 coloured LED bulbs installed that mimicked traffic in the tunnel and from the highway above. Pedestrians using the tunnel now have an interactive experience and take thousands of selfies and videos. Digital art had transformed the walkway.
“This is core to what I love about digital art. It has the capacity to transform a space, to create an experience which is often interactive. We are only at the start of this process. The audience for digital art is growing and people find it fascinating.”
Running his production studio and labs, Malo began to make connections in the art world and one key professional was Pauline Houl, a gallery owner and manager in Beijing and ultimately his co-founder in monart.art. They began to speak about possible collaboration. Pauline is responsible for a vast space in district 798, previously an industrial and factory space. Now district 798 is now synonymous with hipsters, art galleries and is currently undergoing gentrification. Her gallery is huge at 2000 metres squared.
“Just under two years ago, Pauline and I decided to launch our own project – on the blockchain. I’d been keeping tabs on the industry for a number of years and could see the obvious benefits for our sector. In a nutshell, it was the right time to use blockchain to innovate and fundraise.”
The team was put together very quickly. And then they visited the island of Malta and were very quickly won over by the leadership in cryptocurrencies offered by the Maltese government.
“Malta is an amazing island. The government is very future thinking and innovative in its legislation. We headquartered our company in Paris but we also registered here in Malta. As a bonus the island is very beautiful and the people very warm. We are now setting up our token offering regulated by the MFSA, the Malta Financial Services Authority, here on the island. It makes our tokenisation very simple.”
Enter monart.art. It is a thoughtful, explosive concept that will utterly disrupt the art world, in a good way. Conservative estimates put the current global art market capitalisation at around $3 trillion and the yearly market at $67 billion, but that is controlled and managed by a handful of galleries and dominated by a small number of investors. It is not uncommon to see individual art works achieving vast sums at auction but again those figures are limited to the very few: so high cost of entry and lack of accessibility currently characterises this industry.
monart.art challenges this world by doing two main things. The first is to create a new art platform for the art community to discover new artists and new art. This will be digitally enhanced and include virtual exchanges and 3D views of individual artist’s studios.
As Malo explains: “Very few people would have the opportunity to visit living artists’ studios. By putting this online, people who might be curious about an artist can see in detail how they work and understand more about their pieces. But it is not just static video, we will share this content on many devices so people can watch and learn on their tablets, mobiles, and even VR headsets.”
This dynamic concept is based on the idea that people can discover art in new and different ways that can be more fun and less intimidating than traditional galleries or museum exhibition.
“We want to attract a new digital generation,” says Malo.
The issue of cost is another barrier to entry for art lovers. The lack of open accessibility is somewhat ironic as the art market has outperformed traditional financial stock and shares significantly. If you have money to invest in art works you can make serious returns. Few people really understand this and as a result few are able to get involved.
“To invest in art professionally, you would need to invest in between 20 and 50 pieces and that cost (measured in millions) is way beyond most people,” says Malo. “In monart.art we are curating collections of art and our community can invest in modest increments of €1,000 or €10,000.
“This is achieved by using blockchain, in particular the Etherereum blockchain, to tokenise our art. The blockchain provides secure registration of provenance of art and transactions. We are tokenising using the ERC20 71 token which provides Non Fungible Tokens (NFT) which are unique and corresponding to each artwork.”
Currently monart.art has an alpha MVP which it is testing via invitation only currently but over the summer it is planned to open the MVP to the public at large so they can explore, purchase and comment on the art on the platform.
Recently the team launched at Art Basel, the pre-eminent art conference in the world. The team has grown and now includes new art experts in the body of Christophe Durand-Ruel (ex Christie’s) and Eva Hober (owner of her eponymously named Parisian Gallery) who recently joined the company.
“Eva is our first Chief Art Officer – CAO – and I think that might be a first,” says Malo with pride.
“And Christophe’s great, great grandfather is the man who invented the current gallery model. It’s pretty amazing that Christophe is now involved with another shake-up in the art world after all this time.”
Monart.art launched at Art Basel and introduced the company to the art world. Already there is much excitement and as a result of articles in different mainstream and art publications, the big galleries are looking to speak with Malo and Eva at the conference.
Malo is very excited as he left for Basel. The private sale is going well with a possible $5 million committed by investors (due diligence needed to get these commitments over the line) and the public IEO’s hard cap is set at $20 million. After Basel, the team moves on to visit top blockchain conferences in London, San Francisco and Asia.
It’s going to be a busy summer for art lovers.