7 Questions for Kristin Hjellegjerde on Why Her Gallery’s New Outpost in Florida Is Both a ‘Homecoming’ and a New Chapter

The new gallery opened in West Palm Beach this past October.

Kristin Hjellegjerde in front of painting by Sinta Tantra. Photo: Luca Piffaretti.

Kristin Hjellegjerde founded her eponymous gallery in 2012 and has since expanded to three locations across London and one in Berlin—with additional projects and exhibitions staged across Europe. This past October, the gallery established an additional home in West Palm Beach, Florida, the gallery’s first location in the United States. With the inaugural solo exhibition, “Sara Berman: No Visible Means of Support,” Kristin Hjellegjerde West Palm Beach promises to expand on the program it has already become so well-known for across the pond.

We recently caught up with the veteran gallerist to learn more about how the new gallery location came about, and what’s on the horizon for the space.

Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Palm Beach. Courtesy of the gallery.

What first prompted the decision to open a location in the United States? How long has this project been in the works?

We have been contemplating opening a U.S. gallery for some time. Initially in New York, but then an opportunity came up in West Palm Beach that was just too good to turn down. A friend had bought a large warehouse which he wanted to transform into an art center in the heart of the emerging Cultural Quarter of West Palm Beach. It took two years from the first idea to completion, but we were lucky to have had the time to prepare ourselves and our artists.

Why West Palm Beach specifically? Prior to opening this new gallery space, had you spent considerable time in the city?

My husband, Michael Wurzel, and I have frequently visited West Palm Beach over the last 12 years. Michael, who is a partner at Foster+Partners, has been working on the transformation of the Norton Museum of Art and we were fortunate to make many friends and establish connections in the local community. So, in many ways it was a homecoming.

Gilbert Maurer, who is a board member of the Norton Museum and former COO of Hearst, as well as my mentor, remarked at our opening dinner that we are witnessing the emergence of the “Florence of Florida!” Who wouldn’t want to be part of this exciting moment in history? I am thrilled to be able to contribute to the artistic transformation in the region.

Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Palm Beach. Courtesy of the gallery.

Can you talk about some of the benefits or opportunities the new space affords? What went into transforming it?

I am very lucky to be married to an architect, which meant we could design the kind of space I’d always wanted: a cathedral-like space with tall walls and clerestory windows as well as sections that allow for more intimate viewing. The light and movement from one space to another just makes it the ideal space for exhibiting and viewing art. We even have a DJ booth on the mezzanine level which overlooks the entire space.

How do you see the exhibition program here continuing or, alternatively, deviating from the programs established in London, Berlin, and Nevlunghavn?

I am very loyal to our artists. We will keep presenting their work as we have always done, but to new audiences and in a new context. The bigger spaces also allow us to show larger-scale work, which is exciting. Our plan is to present solo shows in the front room and smaller, solo presentations or group shows in the salon space. The salon space is also where we will present new discoveries to our program.

Installation view of “Sara Berman: No Visible Means of Support” (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Kristin Hjellegjerde.

What considerations were made in choosing the inaugural exhibition, “Sara Berman: No Visible Means of Support”?

Sara Berman is an artist on the rise—the quality of her work is exceptional, her storytelling current and thought-provoking. We thought that filling the space with her gargantuan women would be a powerful way to begin our adventure in West Palm Beach. Sara was also able to dedicate a full year to making work for this impactful show.

Do you have a particular favorite piece in the show?

My favorite painting is What part of NO dont you understand (2023). It’s filled with power and sass!

When I was in my 20s, I worked at the Bel Air hotel as a hostess, I remember the director saying to us “These people [the guests] do not come here expecting ‘NO’ for an answer.” I took that in. There is always a way to make something happen, but it is also important to learn how to not do it all, how to have the strength to say “NO” when a situation is uncomfortable or comprising. Women are so used to saying “yes” that we forget to take care of ourselves sometimes.

Sara Berman, What Part Of NO Don’t You Understand (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Kristin Hjellegjerde.

Are there any forthcoming events or exhibitions for the West Palm Beach gallery that you can tell us about? 

I am very excited about presenting a group show in the salon space with Rufai Zakari, Kimathi Mafafo, Lulu Bennett, and Richard Stone, which will take place over the New Wave Gallery weekend, December 2–3. Then on December 9, I am thrilled to be opening Nengi Omuku’s third solo show with us, titled “As Water Never Touched.” We have been waiting a long time for this and it’s going to be fantastic! For our U.K. friends, Nengi currently has a solo show at Hastings Contemporary, which runs until March next year, and for our American friends, she is participating in a group show at the St. Louis Art Museum, which also runs until March next year.

Kimathi Mafafo, Life Moves Like a Ribbon I (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Kristin Hjellegjerde.

Learn more about Kristin Hjellegjerde gallery here.

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