On art and passion: Patrice Vallette of Fine Art 69

Updated on May 2 2014

Mid-exhibition ‘Temu’, we chat to entrepreneur and gallery owner Patrice Vallette on his visions for Fine Art 69 gallery, his background and the idea of collecting art.

As you draw up to 22 Jalan Bruas in Damansara Heights, you notice it is an unassuming, quiet neighbourhood, the gallery itself unmarked and tucked quietly away behind closed gates. We call Patrice who sends someone to show us in, and as you step through the gates, you are instantly met with vibrant flowers, stunning architecture that stretches down the hill, and a warm welcoming feel, not the sometimes silent stares of a fine art gallery.

Patrice has always intended his gallery to bring fresh air to the Malaysian art scene, both for Malaysian artists and to create long term relationships with Malaysian artists. “I wanted to open a gallery to create a relationship, to share and inspire, and not just create a space to show art,” Patrice explains. “And, as much as the artist creates, I think the gallery has a part to create as well — to curate, to write and to create.”

Patrice is currently showing two young artists’ work,  in an exhibition entitled ‘Temu’, it takes on a slightly different approach, staying true to the galleries intentions of breathing fresh air into the art scene, by creating a retrospective exhibition to recognise young artists from their very early work, through to their present day pieces. “It is something that we don’t see very often, because we don’t really do that,” Patrice points out.

“We wanted to do something with a young artist, because most of the time it is a lot to do with their new work, and I think we should recognise artists anywhere, everywhere, whether the work is from 2007 or 2010.”

Diam Diam by Faizal Suhif as part of the exhibition 'Temu' now on at Fine Art 69
Diam Diam by Faizal Suhif as part of the exhibition ‘Temu’ now on at Fine Art 69.

Patrice describes this as being about a journey, and in this case it is the journey of two artists. The exhibition’s name, ‘Temu’, is Malay for ‘meet’, and is about the two artists graduating together from the same art school. “They (the artists) were telling me a story, and I always love stories,” Patrice laughs.

“Out of the numbers of students who graduated from this university, they were almost the only two left who could continue and become professional artists, all the others didn’t really follow and survive.” So for Patrice, this exhibition was another way to recognise this commitment and the relationship of these two artists working together.

Jamil Zakaria - Mulut Meriam
Jamil Zakaria’s Mulut Meriam weaves wire to create his structures.

We ask Patrice about how he selects and finds his artists, and it seems it is all about having a connection. “I can say we are fortunate enough for people to come into the gallery and show me their portfolio, even by email, and that’s great.” Patrice tells us. “It’s not always easy though, because you cannot take everybody,” he adds.

“It is a lot to do with connection and the rest is about the right time, the right moment and certainly the right place, but first of all it’s about what I like, and of course the artists situation at that moment,” Patrice explains. “Because we have had some artists who are working with galleries, and they are committed and so I do respect their commitment if they are already committed with a gallery.”

It is clear that Patrice takes the selection process very seriously, and when he sees something he likes, he wants to invest the time in it. “It is a long term process, I want to build a long term relationship, to meet these people and get their trust, and to know each other more, it takes a bit of time,” Patrice points out, that with Faizal it took three months before he got him to come to the gallery.

“I am not in a rush — I may be in a rush for some things, but the artists and building the relationship should not be rushed.”

Hijrah Ke Tanah by Faizal Suhif - an relationship with an artist cannot be rushed.
Hijrah Ke Tanah by Faizal Suhif.

We want to know more about the passions that drive Patrice Vallette and how it is that he ended up where he is today, we delve a little into his past and discover that collecting and art have been a part of his life from a very early age.

It was at the age of 23 when Patrice bought his first painting, he had worked with an art dealer in Paris, and it was there that he realised that buying art would be a good way to invest money, “I was thinking that if I have 500 euros or 1000 euro, instead of spending that money I should buy a painting. I would enjoy it and I would be happy and proud of it and this would enrich my soul and my excitement in life.”

“So now I have the gallery, it was just a moment in my life when I had the time and the energy and I wanted to do it.” Patrice explains that he never had intentions to do this when he came to Malaysia, to visit galleries and meet artists, yes; but meeting artists who he thinks are doing great work and aren’t represented sparked the thought, and gets him excited.

“I remember when I met Lim Kim Hai – he has this three-metre painting he had never exhibited before, because it is very hard to find a gallery that has that kind of space. So, I told him that maybe one day I will have a space to have his painting. Last December we had his first solo with the gallery and we had two three-metre pieces in this gallery. So I was very proud, and very happy and, this is why I am doing it.”

Lim Kim Hai exhibits in his first solo show in 2012 at Fine Art 69 Gallery
Lim Kim Hai exhibits in his first solo show in 2012 at Fine Art 69 Gallery

“For me it is a journey and a new page in my life and if we can support and help these artists then it is great.” We leave Patrice as he disappears back into the gallery, a man on a mission and a man with enough genuine passion to drive a gallery filled with artists.

Catch the last week of Temu at Fine Art 69 Gallery, it ends on May 9. Fine Art 69 Gallery, 22 Jalan Bruas, Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur www.fineart69.com 

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Keirsten Clark left urban commuting, frosty mornings and chilly evenings of the UK behind for sunnier climes. She is a cake freak and loves to run -- everywhere. Follow her on Twitter @keirsten for updates on all things geeky and content related.