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Industry Insider Profile: Hilary Schaffner

For Hilary Schaffner, co-founder and co-director of East Hampton’s Halsey McKay gallery, confidence is key—in everything from her chosen profession to motherhood to beauty and style. Schaffner worked as a curator while pursuing her graduate degree at the School of Visual Arts, New York, and after turns in several galleries, her collective experience coalesced into the desire to open up a gallery of her own. With a keen eye for art and impeccable taste that may well be credited to her Mademoiselle-editor mother, Schaffner has brought together a coterie of exceptional talent. The artists we work with initially grew out of our community of friends, and the programming continues to be an extension of that. What I love about owning a gallery is giving a platform to artists I believe in and whose work I think should be recognized.” —Jennifer Henderson

Name: Hilary Schaffner

Occupation: the co-founder and co-director of the Halsey McKay gallery. “I studied philosophy and psychology, and had no idea what I wanted to do after college. My first job out of school was at a gallery. From there, I worked in arts P.R. and then studied photography while running a gallery. It ended up being the perfect combination of experiences to opening up [my own] gallery.”

Her work ethic: “Diligent.”

Her turning point: “I published a magazine as my graduate thesis project, and I asked all the artists I knew and liked to participate. It ended up being acquired by MoMA for its library. It’s an amazing feeling to have your creative choices be recognized. That experience gave me a lot more confidence. Very soon after that, we opened Halsey McKay.”

Her personal style: “Simple, elegant, comfortable. Work is very casual for me. I only really ever dress up for art fairs and openings. When I was pregnant, I lived in Raquel Allegra dresses. I love wearing all white and in the winter, and in fall, I have my uniform of jeans, boots, and sweaters.”

Creating balance: “Balance has been challenging [with a new baby]. I think compartmentalizing your time makes things a bit easier and asking for help when you need it. But ask me this question in another year or two, [and] I hopefully will have a bit more figured out!”

Her must-haves: “A Denise Kupferschmidt mug, a Colby Bird lamp, a Rachel Foullon Braid sculpture, a Jennie Jieun Lee vessel, and a Forth Estate edition.”

Daily inspiration: “Being present and observant with my surroundings, especially when I am in nature, is inspiring. My husband and my close friends are also a huge source of inspiration in my daily life.”

Words of wisdom: “[Practice] honesty and integrity. Trust your instincts. And watch out for self-sabotage.”

Her definition of beauty: “Vulnerability and confidence.”

Happy place: “There is a spot at Georgica Beach in East Hampton where the ocean and the pond meet; this is one of my favorite places in the world.”

Up next: “We have an amazing exhibition up right now of Ian Cooper’s sculptures, which had a wonderful review in Art Forum. In December, we will be at Untitled art fair, in Miami, with Patrick Brennan, Lauren Luloff, and Colby Bird.”