Standard Talks

Hannah Traore Is Here for the Bigger Picture

Fresh from her appearance at The Standard, East Village for Standard Talks: The Making of COWBOY, gallerist Hannah Traore sat down with The Standard to talk curatorial vision, fashion collabs and creating space for representation.

It was only a year ago that gallerist Hannah Traore was at The Standard, celebrating the launch of her new gallery. In just one year, the Hannah Traore Gallery has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the art world. Among the exhibitions, activations, panels, and collaborations, that the gallery has hosted, Traore has brought together a roster of creatives like photogrpaher Camila Falquez, painter, Moya Garrison-Msingwana, and curator and writer, Antwaun Sargent that in turn, have become her community. 

Community is one of the defining pillars of the gallery, and that is increasingly evident as time goes on. At any given opening or event, her community comes out in droves to support her. The professional relationships that she’s established have become personal and friends have become collaborators. 

“A space for artists who have been historically marginalized from the mainstream narrative,” is the gallery’s ethos that Traore continues to build upon that situates Black artists and other artists of color in the visual art landscape, one that has been notoriously exclusive to those identities. 

“I never imagined that these things would come to me. Things like the Helmut Lang exhibition, and being at the 15% Pledge Gala, and some more vapid things like being in magazines. But then the more important things are the connections I've made with the artists and when they tell me that they feel seen,” says Traore. “When I see people of color come into the gallery and say that they feel like this space is for us—it’s just wild to have set out to do something that feels like it’s happening. There’s still so much work to do, but I feel like I’m really blessed and really in my purpose. I can’t even imagine doing any other job now.” 

The Standard spoke with Hannah Traore to reflect on the past year, her current pursuits in fashion, and what she’s got in store for 2023.

Congratulations on your first year of Hannah Traore Gallery! How are you feeling right now?

I never could have imagined this! I spent a year and a half to two years working on the gallery and in that time you're imagining what it's gonna be like and it's been in some ways similar, but in so many ways completely different than what I thought. I couldn't have imagined how many amazing people would be brought into my life through this, and like not just party friends or work friends, but really like soul sisters, you know? People who I feel that I'll have in my life forever. 

What was one of your biggest highs from the past year?

I think every opening is a high and I feel like I can give different reasons for each one: Renee Cox was a high because I studied her in college, so it was a full-circle moment. Hassan’s opening was a high because he was in my first-ever exhibition at Skidmore, when I realized that I wanted to be in curatorial. Camila’s opening was a high because I felt that community we were building was so special, and having that community come during her entire exhibition and really use the space as their space as I wanted them to. Moya’s opening was a high because my whole community from Toronto came just to support us. James’ opening was a high because we became such good friends and we met before I knew I was going to open a gallery. Anya’s opening is a high because I see so much of myself in her–she’s half white, half West African, she has Fulani in her, I have Fulani in me, so we relate in that way. 

I remember when you celebrated the launch of your gallery at The Standard East Village last year, and now you’ve worked with them to commemorate a smaller show at the gallery with Antwaun Sargent. What’s that relationship with them been like?

Before I started working with The Standard, they were already a part of my New York life, especially when I first moved here—Boom Boom Room, that’s always been where it’s at. It was such an honor to have my first opening at The Standard, I felt very iconic. Since then they’ve been such a great support. I love staying there for staycations, and the fact that they are such a great partner with the arts and are interested in education and community is why I really appreciate the brand.

You have a well-defined ethos for your gallery. How do you hope to continue the vision in this new year?

Keeping my integrity, because my vision is strong in my head and there's been times where it's easy to have that waver because it's like candy. You could do this at the gallery, you could make this much money if you rented out to this—and so it's important for me to remember why I'm here. My business consultant Elizabeth Dee will always remind me, “You’re a gallery!” So I feel like I haven't wavered from my vision and I'm just going to continue to remember I'm a gallery, I'm here for my artists. I'm here for the vision. I'm here for the bigger picture.

I haven't wavered from my vision and I'm just going to continue to remember I'm a gallery, I'm here for my artists. I'm here for the vision. I'm here for the bigger picture.

At the Ten To One Black History Month panel, you mentioned that you had something coming up that would involve primary school children. What will that look like? 

I love kids so much, I wanted to be a teacher from preschool to sophomore year of college until I realized that I wanted to be in the arts. One of the artists wasn’t ready for the March slot, and I was thinking about what we could fill that with, something that would be really impactful. It was actually my brother’s idea, and I was immediately on board. 

It's going to be a real show. It's going to be two months like any of my other shows. We’ll have press and an opening for the kids. I'm really, really excited and I wanted also to just bring attention to the schools too. I had a meeting with Goldman Sachs and I told them about it and they wanted to help too. They want to go to each school and go to the classes and teach the kids about financial literacy at their level. 

Do you have any other plans to work alongside the fashion industry?

Something that I knew I wanted to do since the genesis of the gallery, but hadn’t been able to do yet is a fashion collaboration once a year. I'm gonna bring in an artist and a designer and we're going to do a capsule collection. I don't want it to be, you know, slapping a photograph on designs, or on a t-shirt, which can be great, but I really wanted it to be a true collaboration. I really want it to expand the minds of the artist, designer, and myself. So then the the gallery will turn into a store for four months in the back installation room. It'll be a beautiful collaboration and it'll be very different every year. 

What does your life look like outside of being a gallerist?

A lot of eating! I feel like, when people get to know me, they realize how important food is to my life. If you ask any of my friends about Hannah and food, they’ll laugh because I eat more than my father and anyone that I know. Both of my parents are amazing cooks, so we grew up eating all types of cuisines. When I was younger my favorite food was fish eyes! Not so much anymore. But I think the reason that I love food so much is because sharing a meal is a time where people can connect. Also, hanging out with my friends. I’m a true extrovert in every sense of the word, and being around people who really know my soul is so important to just be myself and not necessarily have to talk about work. My family is the most important thing to me, and I’m away from them here in New York. So I need my chosen family here or I wouldn’t be able to survive. 

What can we look forward to from the Hannah Traore Gallery in 2023?

Honestly, a lot of emphasis on fashion! But when Camila’s show opened last year in June, during that period we filmed a round table of trans folks in the community. We had a dinner and it was so beautiful. So a year later, a film from that has been created and will be playing in the back room of the gallery starting June 1. I think it’s going to feel like a beautiful, full-circle moment. It needs to be seen. I really try to be the best ally that I can be and I know a lot more about these things than most people I know. So, I know if I was learning a ridiculous amount, then everyone is going to learn so much from this. It’s so important because I feel like the Trans community is so left out, so often. Even within their own LGBTQIA+ community, they’re left out. It’s going to be really powerful.

Portrait photography: Jacq Harriet
Installation photography: Adam Reich


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