CURATOR PATI HERTLING AND GALLERIST ALEXANDER HERTLING AT PATI’S HOME IN NEW YORK, OCTOBER 2014. ON PATI: SUIT: MARC JACOBS. ON ALEXANDER: SUIT AND SHIRT: MARC JACOBS. STYLING: ANDREAS KOKKINO. MAKEUP: SIR JOHN FOR DIORSHOW/STREETERS.
Alexander and Pati Hertling were born in West Berlin on November 28, 1977. Alexander arrived first, and is a minute or two older. Although their personalities are different, some of the strange twin powers I know them to share are a keen eye for spotting interesting, sometimes radically challenging emerging art and the ability to find platforms to exhibit it. Alexander is the co-founder of Balice Hertling (his partner is Daniele Balice), a Paris art gallery that also runs a small exhibition space in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. “I might have been interested in art since I was a child, but my parents also encouraged me because, on gift-giving occasions, I often received art history books or artist biographies,” Alexander recalls. “Also, growing up in Berlin as a teenager in the ’90s, art seemed to be everywhere.” Alexander moved to Paris to begin a career in fashion in 1998. It wasn’t until 2007, soon after his friend, artist Oscar Tuazon, moved to town and asked Alexander and Daniele to share an exhibition space that Alexander’s penchant for art was channeled into organizing exhibitions. “It could have gone wrong, but the artist that we gave the first solo show to was immediately invited to the next Venice Biennale, and we sold a lot of that first work to American museum collections.” While the Paris gallery has a solid stable that includes Tuazon, Sam Falls, and Alexander May, the fledgling space in New York allows for some inventive and off-beat projects where friends curate, first-time artists get to show, and a generous amount of friendly mingling gets done outside of the formulaic, step-and-repeat Chelsea scene.
For Pati, her interest in art began right after she graduated from high school in the summer of 1997, with “Documenta X, Skulptur Projekte Münster, and the Venice Biennale all happening at once. I had never been exposed to that much contemporary art at once before.” Pati, who settled in New York in 2007, now works as a lawyer specializing in art restitution, or art recovery, an intriguing and controversial avenue that requires consideration of collection ethics and historical-detective work into the origins of masterpieces that might have been looted from their owners during the Nazi era. “There was a very active black market in West Germany after the war,” she explains, “A lot of Old Masters and early 20th-century paintings changed hands.” Pati has also been a curator and art promoter, organizing unorthodox nights, events, salons, and exhibitions, including the memorable “Evas Arche und der Feminist,” a Berlin-New York salon for visual and performing art that served soup in accompaniment. She is currently planning a few group shows as well as a feminist dinner series. “I love it because I am not financially dependent on my work as a curator,” she says. “I am free because I don’t need to think about whether the project is financially viable.” In their time, Alexander and Pati have added many adopted New York members to the Hertling art family.