Born in Vancouver, Canada, Grace Roy Hess has always known she wanted to work with art. At the age of 18 she moved to Paris to study philosophy at The Sorbonne and three years later she relocated to Copenhagen to finish her Master’s degree. Today she works at Galleri Nicolai Wallner and she’s is still absolutely obsessed with art.
What turning points have helped you define who you are today?
I moved to Paris when I was 18 and studied philosophy at The Sorbonne. I would do it again without question, but I still find it hard to grasp. I didn’t know anyone, I had never been to Europe before, I was halfway around the world from where I grew up, I was really walking into the unknown. It was a huge turning point for me, I realized just how resilient and motivated I was. Then I ended up doing it all over again three years later when I moved to Copenhagen.
What does a typical workday look like?
One of the things I really like about my job is that it’s different every day. We work with a core group of artists, so each day is dependent on what they are working on as well as what exhibitions are on view at the gallery or are being planned. It requires a lot of flexibility, but it’s very rewarding.
What’s important to you?
Art is obviously very, very important to me. Philosophy is still a big part of my life—I enjoy reading it and find it relevant in so many ways. I’m also someone who listens to music all the time, I can’t imagine not listening to music. I think it’s important to engage with what people are making, no matter what the medium, and I feel lucky to be able to do so.
An artist on your mind right now?
We’ve recently opened an exhibition with the artist Cornelia Baltes and it’s her first with the gallery, so I’ve spent a lot of time looking at her work and getting to know her practice. It’s always so interesting to start that journey. Her work is both abstract and figurative, incorporating elements like a hand or another body parts. There’s a lot of energy in it and when you look at it you get the feeling that you’re looking at something that’s in motion. It’s a little like life—we’re always in the middle of it. We often talk about moments in our lives as if they were stretched out, but they actually take place in minutes or even seconds. I think Cornelia’s work plays with this a little. It makes you feel like you’re not just being told a story, but that you actually becoming a part of it.
What does your gender mean to you?
It’s becoming increasingly important for me to be proud that I’m a woman. I think back at my mother’s generation, and how hard they fought for things. Realizing that we’re still stuck with many of the same problems is a scary thought. It’s something I’m taking into consideration more and more.
Have you met a person who made you see things differently?
To this day it’s my parents. My parents are both artists, and have always been totally immersed in their work. It was very special to have two role models who were so dedicated and focused on their passions, and to grow up with that had a great impact. They set the bar very high for me.
What annoys you?
People who think art is for the elite. Annoyed isn’t the right word, but it makes me sad for both those who want to exclude and those who feel excluded. The world is complicated and unstable, and art has the ability to explore the ideas and feelings that connect us. It’s not an exclusive commodity, it’s something that starts a dialogue.
Do you cry easily?
With the right circumstances I’ll definitely cry. I’m someone who lives in my head rather than in my heart, but that doesn’t mean I’m not emotional. I do however wish people would be more open about crying—or would be more open about their emotions. We’re very accustomed to keeping up appearances and dividing our life between private and public. The art world is a place where people are encouraged to be very expressive of their feelings and be open to being vulnerable, and I love working in a field where people are very receptive to this and interested in understanding and sharing.
What does love mean to you?
Love is so universal and at the same time so personal. For me to love something or someone is to be happy. I don’t believe in ‘the one’. For me it’s about realizing that, with that person or that thing (like art), I’m better off—that I’m happier.