How Hannah Traore's Gallery Is Reframing The Art Space

By Sana Butler | March 30, 2022

This feature is in the March/April Next Wave Issue. Click here to subscribe.


Hannah Traore PHOTO BY JACQ HARRIET
Hannah Traore PHOTO BY JACQ HARRIET

When Hannah Traore’s gallery arrived in New York City’s Lower East Side in January, the Toronto native further ignited Orchard Street—an historic art playground for artists, consumers and gallery owners alike.

Traore debuted her namesake space with a razzmatazz and frisson from Morocco to Manhattan in a way only a 20-something can conjure: with fresh eyes and (in her words) little “traditional” experience. To say the latter is not to disparage her acuity to navigate the art world but to capture her unwavering ease to translate that to the world of the buyer. Traore was born a boss.


Installations from the gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Hues, that was on display from Jan. 20 through Feb. 26 PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNAH TRAORE GALLERY, NEW YORK
Installations from the gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Hues, that was on display from Jan. 20 through Feb. 26 PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNAH TRAORE GALLERY, NEW YORK

You turned 27 a week after the opening. How is youth an asset?

I want to break from the very cold traditional framework of a gallery space, and I think that has something to do with my age. I spent close to three years creating different points of entry to introduce new ways of seeing, new ways of collaborating, new ways of playing with the idea of what a gallery means and what it can do.

Why did you decide to mix the quiet refrain of an art gallery with the live programming of a museum as a way to shake things up?

Art and education are very important. They’re more in the museum world at this point, but it’s exciting to see robust, poetic connections in a gallery setting. Antwaun Sargent’s show Social Works [previously on display at New York City’s Gagosian in 2021] is an example where you almost forgot you were in a gallery. That’s the kind of rigor to expect. I hope to be doing fashion collaborations in a couple of years. Maybe art history classes once a week.


PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNAH TRAORE GALLERY, NEW YORK
PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNAH TRAORE GALLERY, NEW YORK

But people love to give the side-eye with even a little bit of noise.

It is more of a disservice to the work of the artist and to the audience if you put art on the wall and then that’s it. You don’t say anything about it. As much as I possibly can, I will have artist talks. I will have panel discussions. I’ll have a robust program of events to highlight the show and to accompany the show. It allows the work to actually really shine.


PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNAH TRAORE GALLERY, NEW YORK
PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNAH TRAORE GALLERY, NEW YORK

After you put together a list of artists you wanted to work with, how did you decide on the theme of the first exhibit, Hues?

I noticed that a huge throughline was that a lot of the work was extremely colorful. And when someone walks into a show [like that], then they’re going to have a visceral reaction. I’ve always been drawn to color. I dress very colorfully a lot of the time. My father is from Mali, and she always used to say that people who dress all in black think that they’re stylish, but really it’s important to figure out how to put colors together. That’s where real style is.

Photography by: Courtesy of Jacq Harriet