Stories Vol. 3 Hilde of HILDE L.A.
Hilde Lynn Helphenstein and I met exactly twice. The first time was at a cocktail party in San Francisco, about a year or so ago. It was before I became 'Llani' and she became 'HILDE'. When we got to talking, late into the night, it was clear we were both in the midst of conceptualizing these dreams, dreams to put our name on something of our own. The second time we met, Hilde invited me to a birthday party she was throwing herself the very next night. I was told the dress-code was skanky chic, and I embraced it at every level. I showed up at this back yard shindig in fuchsia leather, and migled among the cool crowd, casual conversation while sipping Negronis from champagne glasses in the Mission. Then, the fire juggler came, transforming the party into an unforgettable and quintessentially unpredictable night. It also transformed the everlasting impression Hilde left on me. As we followed each other from opposite coasts, I new she was embarking on a venture of epic proportions.
Can you tell us a bit about your life before you opened your namesake gallery HILDE?
I’ve spent the last 9 years studying art making, art business,and traveling extensively to get a full grasp of where art fits in our current times. That’s the very dry, but shortest version. I’ve lived in NYC, San Francisco, Miami, Oslo, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Frankfurt, and even Russia! It’s been an incredible exploration of the world, humans, and how we choose to express ourselves in different cultures and time.
Can you identify the tipping point when you decided you wanted to open your own space, or was that always your end goal?
Yes. Last year I spent time working at Gagosian Gallery in San Francisco. It was an enriching and eye opening experience. Larry is actually a hero of mine and when I read about his life and realized that no one ever gave him permission to do what he does, I thought I can do this! I’ve been training majorly for this for as long as I can remember. It’s my turn! There was an element of self-doubt and fear that I had to just shed and decide to go for it, no matter what. I can’t understate this for anyone who’s reading this: NO ONE WILL EVER GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO ACHIEVE GREATNESS, YOU SEIZE IT FOR YOURSELF.
What thrills you the most and concerns you the most with growing your company?
I look at what I do as a form of creative midwifery. I’m mostly excited to have a chance to guide the direction the art market will go and eventually how the story of contemporary art is told. I’m working with my favorite artists and I find incredible value in their minds, their craft, and their commentary. I completely believe in their legitimate existence in the future. My greatest concern, challenge and opportunity is how to create a new paradigm within the art market which provides sustainability. I’m not here for cheap thrill and a few fast bucks. I want to grow and nurture artists over time, while being ultra-creative and vital.
What is your daily routine now vs. when you were working for an employer? Do you feel that you have more control over your schedule?
I literally have the best schedule in the world, but also don’t have any separation from my work mentally. The gallery is 11am-6pm and I’m an 8 minute drive from the gallery which means no more alarm clocks and no commuting.I live in this little cottage that was built by the Zen Center of California. It’s in the back garden of an old mansion. I listen to birds all day and night. I don’t hear any street traffic. I get to leave the city in essence, which is key to my mental health right now. I did all of this intentionally. I need to be 100% present for my new business and organizing my life around the principal of “the gallery first” has been key to energy I use to approach this kind of work.
However, when I say there are far fewer boundaries than before, I mean that exactly. I have two artists from Sweden living with me right now as they prepare for our summer exhibition. My house has very few walls and doors and then the gallery is the exact same way architecturally. I’m publicly facing all day at the gallery and then I work in the evenings to assist my artists. It’s a full time job in every way and at times can feel like a huge sacrifice that I’ve given in honor of my ultimate dream.
Do you feel you're making powerful statements through the work and artists you choose to feature? Are there any issues or topics you feel you can shed light on that may not have been acceptable when you were working for a gallery with a national name?
Well of course I believe I’m making powerful statements or I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing!
There are no lack of interesting perspectives to explore in art. I think art in general is good at addressing abstracted “problems” or mind puzzles as a stand in for some of the complications we all face being human. I get REALLY into the concerns of artists because I find their problems to be complete fakes, fabrications, and metaphors. Imagine turning your whole world into how do I perfectly apply the right amount of paint onto a brush and then hit the canvas at the right speed with the correct motion in order to construct the perfect image...Just think about how that can mess with your perspective while also completely freeing your mind from the constraints of everyday life!
When I worked for other people we showed their artists and attended to their intellectual concerns. Now I work with MY FAVORITE artists on whatever it is they are concerned with and thinking about. It’s a wonderful experience to provide this kind of platform for them.
What or who inspired you the most recently and how do you translate that inspiration?
I read as much as I can and I watch tons of film. I’m currently reading “I’m very into you” which is a compilation of flirty and probing emails between Kathy Acker and MacKenize Wark. They are obsessively getting to know one another through email. They’re both wickedly smart and funny and vulnerable. They were written in 1995/1996 when the concept of this kind of communication was brand new. I also just watched the two documentaries made about author JT Leroy.I think I’m obsessed with art that lifts the curtain only to reveal more mystery and intrigue, further wonder at the impossibility of contemporary life.
You always look so fabulous at your openings! How do you chose your outfits for these special events at the gallery? Are you inspired by the work you are showing or do you shop knowing you have the perfect excuse to buy something special.
You always look fabulous ;) Thank you! I am really inspired by the shows for finding my “look for the evening.” The first show was Apollo on Earth so I wanted a retro futuristic dress that flirted with vapor wave. I ended up wearing a white shift dress with sheer pockets and a giant behive. Our summer show will be no exception. My artists want me to dress as a virginal-sexy nun, cross choker and all. I’m totally game. Think Raquel Welch in Blue Beard...yeah, that’s what we’re going for! Ha ha. It’s so much fun.
What makes you feel most beautiful in your own skin?
Oh god, I’m gonna pull a cliche out of the bag, it’s never about how you look and all about how you feel about yourself. Some days I just look good and I can’t justify why exactly, but I usually end up realizing, “wow, I feel f-ing amazing today!”