Pati Hertling: Lawyer by Day, Curator by Night

Get to know this Berlin-native, who is considered some kind of art world Batman


There’s a playful perception that Pati Hertling might be some kind of art world Batman: By day she fires off legal missives from her midtown-Manhattan law firm; by night she curates downtown exhibitions and hosts pop-up salons that have attracted artists like Rirkrit Tiravanija and Hertling’s ex-girlfriend Elizabeth Peyton. But in fact, Hertling’s blonde pageboy and sleek all-black uniform don’t change from day to night, and her law practice focuses largely on returning artworks stolen from Jewish families during the Holocaust. “In that way, there’s some crossover between my work life and my other life,” says Hertling, who also consults on legal matters for her artist friends. “Unfortunately, about 80 percent of that is pro bono,” she says, rolling her darkly mascaraed eyes.

When the 35-year-old Berlin native, whose brother Alexander operates the Balice Hertling gallery in Paris, moved to New York in 2006, she brought along Evas Arche und der Feminist, a now defunct performance-based salon series she cohosted with the artist Marlous Borm. It gained such a following that they were asked to hold events at MoMA PS1, in Queens. “My approach was never academic,” Hertling says. “I work very spontaneously.” That method has resulted in zeitgeisty exhibitions like last year’s “Heart to Hand,” a group show at Manhattan’s Swiss Institute in the wake of the Occupy movement, featuring socially conscious work by the likes of Klara Lidén and Zoe Leonard. This month she is co-curating a performance series on New York’s Fire Island, where she’s summering with her girlfriend, the artist K8 Hardy. And then there is Hertling’s new monthly salon, Le Potage de Madame Zazouf, whose fictional namesake Hertling imagines as an artistic fairy godmother in the mold of Gertrude Stein. “Except maybe Zazouf is not so wide,” she adds coyly.

Photo: Joshua Bright