From Denmark & France
With a vision to bring French contemporary art to Malaysia, Edith opened Gallery des Artistes in the Tropicana Golf & Country Resort in Petaling Jaya last year. She turned their beautiful residence into a gallery with the hope to show how artwork can be displayed not just on walls but around the house and outdoors. She allows visitors to freely interact with the art.
FF: Hello Edith, thank you so much for taking the time to share your passion for art with us. If I understood correctly, you were born in Denmark, grew up in France, lived in Hong Kong and now in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for over 20 years. You are married to your husband, Edwin, whom with you’ve had 3 children.
EH: Yes. In fact, two of my kids live in Paris – they are in their 20s. My last child is 11 years old and lives with us in Kuala Lumpur
FF: Diving in, tell us a little about your life and professional career. How did you end up in the art business?
EH: Art has always been my passion – I grew up in France so going to museums and visiting exhibitions was a rite of passage. My husband and I started collecting art about 30 years ago and I organized my first exhibition in Macau for a French painter – that experience seeded the idea in me, and I knew that someday I would get into the gallery business.
FF: How did you get the idea of turning your home into an art gallery?
EH: It was a complete accident. Kuala Lumpur or KL as it is known is a very spread out city like LA so finding the ‘right’ place to open a business is complicated as people are reluctant to visit your space if they risk being stuck in traffic. So, about 3 years ago I was actively looking for a suitable space and I had bought 3 paintings from a young Malaysian woman who came with her father to deliver the artworks to my home. The father suddenly said “and which gallery is this? I have never heard about it” and BINGO! Yes, of course, that was the obvious choice right there in front of me. So, I designed and started to convert part of the house into a gallery with all the features that I wanted - big bay windows to allow lots of natural light, garden to display art outdoors, etc. At this point, my 2 older children had already left home so, part of the house was not being used anyway. I redid most of the lighting system, added a wire hanging system and put away a lot of personal items. We are now living with amazing art everywhere! It’s a blessing.
FF: What inspires you?
EH: All beautiful things - not only in art but also in nature, fashion, design, etc.
FF: Are you an artist yourself? Or creative in other ways?
EH: No, unfortunately! Actually, I am also a yacht interior designer. I recently finished a big project for a prestigious Italian yard. It’s 43 meters and the project took 3 years to complete. I had so much fun choosing everything for the yacht, from marble to fabrics to lights and artworks!
FF: What were some of the toughest moments or decisions you’ve had to make on your journey? And how did you tackle them?
EH: I think the hardest decision is picking which artists to exhibit. There are many talented artists out there and you are easily tempted but you have to be selective. I try to take a pragmatic approach and put aside my personal emotions, taste and think critically.
FF: What were some of the happiest moments on this journey?
EH: Meeting extraordinary people and making new friends! I have developed amazing friendships with my artists, and I feel so blessed about that.
FF: Who are the women and men that stood behind you?
EH: When I started, many artists saw my gallery as a gamble. For them, the gallery was new, unknown and far from town. Yet, some artists were immediately supportive and willing to take on this extraordinary challenge with me to open a new market for them.
FF: What do you attribute your success to?
EH: In one word: Passion. I think that whatever you do, you have to be passionate about it.
FF: What did you discover about yourself in the process?
EH: That’s a very good question because, at the end of the day, it’s about how experiences make you grow. For me, opening the gallery has enriched me a lot. I have learned so much about art, running a gallery, about artists and the experience gave a whole new level of fulfillment in my life.
FF: How did your career affect your family life?
EH: It’s all been positive because for my 11-year-old, for example, he now lives in this incredible environment with art everywhere and it really inspires him. He spends time looking at the works and commenting on them!
FF: What’s the next step or what are you most excited about right now?
EH: I’m excited about expanding to other markets as I realize that, after 2 years, my home market is limited, and I would like to reach further.
FF: Would you do this over again?
EH: Without a doubt – whether the gallery is successful or not, in the long run, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is what I have gained and learned during the journey.
FF: We have some fun questions about you that we’d like to ask. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
EH: Lots of coffee and my newspaper!
FF: How do you prepare yourself for the day?
EH: By following my morning ritual which is a good breakfast and a swim. It gives me energy for the rest of the day. We are so lucky here in Malaysia we can swim 365 days a year!
FF: What are some of your favourite things to do on a day off?
EH: In the gallery business there are no days off!
FF: You grew up in France, but where is HOME for you now?
EH: That’s the million-dollar question. I don’t really know. Now, that I have spent more time in Asia than in Europe, I am conflicted and don’t feel 100% at home anywhere.
FF: As a child, what was your dream job when you got older?
EH: As a child, I wanted to be a ballerina!
FF: What is your education? And did it match your childhood dreams?
EH: I studied Translation & Simultaneous Interpretation in Paris and I wanted to work at the UN in Geneva. I was also preparing for a Ph.D. in Economics, but I couldn’t finish because I was working in Paris while waiting to go to the UN – there was a 2-year waiting list.
FF: Did you have other jobs, passions, projects before you got into the art business?
EH: Yes, the yacht business that my husband and I built when we first moved to Hong Kong in 1993.
FF: If you should describe your life with just one word, what would that be?
FF: Do you have a motto or a saying that guides you?
EH: I don’t have a motto “per se” but what pushes me is the will to experiment with new things.
FF: Who is the most inspiring woman for you?
EH: If I were to say an artist, I would say Frida Kahlo for her talent, incredible spirit and courage.
FF: What is bringing you the most joy in your life right now?
EH: Two things. The first is discovering new artists and talent and second, seeing the joy in people’s hearts when they buy art. I have even seen new collectors cry when they purchase their first painting! To know that art can make a change in people’s lives is such a wonderful thing.
FF: What is your absolute favourite book?
EH: Probably ‘Angela’s Ashes’ by Frank McCourt about life in Ireland. It is a haunting biography but one of courage and resilience.
FF: What are three things you are grateful for?
EH: Everything really and when I do my yoga practice, I always give thanks for what that day brought me even on bad days.
FF: What is your best piece of advice for people who want to live out their dreams?
EH: Take the plunge! Go for it, don’t live to regret not trying.
FF: Do you support a charity or an organization you would like to share with us?
EH: Not specifically. Here in Malaysia, we have so many charities for orphans, refugees, etc. We, expatriates, always try to make small contributions.
FF: Is there anything you would like to share before we close that we didn’t touch on?
EH: Yes, for women to believe in themselves and try, try, try!
FF: You do some incredible work for others, so is there anything we can do for you?
EH: Love your initiative and let's help other women.
Thank you so much, Edith, for your time and wise words. We really enjoyed your story, your positive mindset, and encouragement to other women.
If you want to know more about Edith and her fabulous gallery in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, please visit: