Joelle Mortier Valat’s biography (born1951)




Joelle Mortier Valat gallerist ?

As a former student in History of Art and Archeology, Joelle Mortier Valat informs us : “There is no recipe for being a gallerist.”

In fact, who could imagine that being in charge of a gallery means practising numerous jobs at the same time ? Meeting the artists, making the buyers discover the works, preserving, bringing into light some forgotten periods, and also being press-attache or broker.

Several costums for the same part : gallerist. Passion and curiosity lay this particular path out.

As Joelle underlines : “It’s through the interest in an artist that you discover others. Each artist calls for another one. As a matter of fact, this is precisely the reason why I studied the History of Art : to understand, beyond the ages, the links betweem the creatives.”

If Joelle is a gallerist today and for the last 35 years, it is mostly due to the firemen painters, the XXth century painters and her love for photography.

A few fetish words cristallize the adventures of our day-dreaming gallerist who has gone through three major economical crises.


The will

To want is to conceive.

Conceiving, from the 70’s, that the building site premises located 13, rue des Saints Peres was to have another vocation. It was previously used for the storage of a few art works. But paintings don’t like to be left asleep surrounded by concrete walls.

Moreover, an appointment is made with the unexpected.

One day, as usual, Joelle goes to Drouot to buy a painting. She comes back with the work under her arm to rue des Saints Peres, not yet a gallery. She is followed by a man who wants to purchase the work from our future gallerist. She refuses three offers but the gentleman is willing to pay several times the price of the work. Joelle finally agrees.

Once the money transferred, Joelle takes it as a sign of fate. She is going to transform this disused pied-a-terre into a gallery. Since 1973, she is collecting all these scenes on canvas found in auctions or trade fairs. On december 13th 1979, one day before the launching of the Clash’s album “London calling”, Joelle opens the ‘Verneuil Saints Peres’ gallery.

Another will. “In the 70’s, the art dealers were only looking for the XVIIIth century paintings. If it was dated XIXth, it was just impossible”.

But Joelle perseveres : “Yes, I fing the XIXth century very interesting. It’s a period where the art painters allowed themselves all kinds of improbabilities. They had no scruples. Rochegrosse painted ‘Roman villas looted by the Huns’ “.

First exhibition at Verneuil Saints Peres ‘Portraits in the XIXth century’ with precisely a beautiful portrait of Bouguereau, the one who reproached Manet for being an “art fire raiser”. In return, Manet called him “fireman” !

Again, it is during an exhibition organized by Joelle that Paul Huet, who painted romantic landscapes and died in 1869, comes back into the collective memory.

Pierre Miquel bows to her daring !


The discovery

“You are dubbed gallerist. People come in and give you the part of galleris”, Joelle says.

300 watercolours from a british depute chief of staff who painted whatever his eyes could see while India was occupied by the british crown. The watercolours are presented. It is a huge success.

Next comes a post-impressionist french painter who had worked in Puy-en-Velay. His paintings fly away to the United States. Portraits are still topical at the gallery. Bernard Boutet de Monvel, portrait painter of the american ‘Cafe Society’ is subject to a unique exhibition. About thirty paintings and more than one hundred preliminary drawings will also fly away to New York for another exhibition.

The same year comes a great retrospective for Jacques Emile Blanche’s work, friend with Proust and Gabriel Faure. Genius of sensitiveness, he is able to translate the psychology of his model on his painting.

Being in charge of a gallery also implies to encourage an artist who is not known yet. In early 80’s, Joelle makes an exhibition with Jane Evelyn Atwood’s photographs and her set dedicated to legionaries. ” I wanted to share Jane’s approach which is, of course, most important in the world of photographs.”


The entire world

From her gallery 13, rue des Saints Peres, Joelle is establishing links with the entire world.

With Russia ? ” In the 60’s, I left for Moscow to learn russian. It was like a sign. Since then, I always had a leading strand with Russia. I wanted to read Lermontov in the text…” And finally, the language of Tolstoi brings her to meet some russian buyers and also make an exhibition with the paintings of Baranov-Rossine, one of the most important figures of russian avant-garde.

Beyond temporal and geographical frontiers, Joelle goes for 10 years with Houshang Pezeshknia, an iranian painter who pulled the persan painting art out of tradition.

Moreover, he’ll be exhibited in 2013 for 6 months in the Asia Society Museum, Park avenue, NY.

Indian, palestinian, german, american, spanish artists will also find a haven of radiance in this moving, international oriented museum.



One day in 1990, a gentleman comes into the gallery. He is immediately recognized by Joelle. It’s Lucien Clergue !

“What a pleasure it is to meet you. I love your work !”

‘Eluard’s unforgettable body’, ‘bullfighting’, ‘born from wave’, a beautiful set of printings made in Boston.

Exhibitions keep following on. And the alchemy is achieved when Joelle sales few works to Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent. She is also fond of the gorgeous ‘Dramatic Intensity’ from the photographer, friend with Picasso and Cocteau.

In 2010, Joelle comes by coincidence across Jane Bee, stylist of the language, who creates every year paintings with words, memory of the popular press language on a specific theme. The meeting with the artist is unexpected and organized by a third person. Joelle looks at Jane Bee’s frescos, ” a real movie-text of our time, avant-garde of the data visualisation.” Several exhibitions are immediately set.

This is, in few words, the journey of a gallerist who transformed her mission into a poetic militancy. Not long ago, Joelle Mortier Valat had fun to unveil what she calls ‘esoteric paintings’, some unsigned works attributed by the art experts to such or such known artist.


Opening the eyes wide and be listening to all types of works, this may be the perfect recipe for being a gallerist.

The conclusion belongs to Joelle : ” Being in charge of a gallery means always starting a new story !”