Meet Hannah Traore, The Rising New York City Gallerist Writing Her Own Rules

The Toronto-born tastemaker talks curator life, fashion, and finding art everywhere.

For Hannah Traore, a foray into the world of art was almost pre-destined.

 

Born in Toronto to a Jewish textile artist and art collector mother and a Malian father who immersed her in his culture, the 27-year-old’s early exposure to art—and the many issues surrounding race and representation in its sphere—left her with virtually “no choice” but to pursue a career that would challenge the traditionally gatekept realm.

 

And after years of art history study, two coveted curatorial internships at the Museum of Modern Art and Fotografiska, and one perspective-changing pandemic: the Hannah Traore Gallery, a space dedicated to “advocating for and celebrating artists who have been historically marginalised”, was born in New York City.

 

To learn more about how it all began for the up-and-coming curator, The Aje Report caught up with Hannah at her family home in Toronto, where she styled and wore the newest arrivals from Spring 22 ‘Provenance’—a collection partly inspired by the world of art.

 

From sharing glimpses into her life as a gallerist to her thoughts on fashion and personal style, read on for our conversation with the inimitable, Hannah Traore.

Hannah Traore in the Amour Ruffle Midi Dress

Hannah Traore in the Romarin Knit Bodice Midi Dress

The Aje Report: Tell us about the backstory behind the Hannah Traore Gallery. What inspired you to strike out on your own and open your own space?

 

Hannah: I knew I wanted to start my own gallery years ago, but always assumed I'd do it later in life. The pandemic gave me a lot of time to think and ultimately really pushed me to pursue my dream years ahead of my original plan.

 

The more time I spent building the gallery, the more I realised that the timing couldn't have been better. Working in the New York art world, I had become increasingly frustrated by what I saw and felt that there was a lot missing. It feels really good to be one of many trying to fill that gap.

 

Walk us through a typical day in your life as a gallerist. What goes on behind the scenes?

 

It is so hard to describe a day in my life as a gallerist because every day is so different. Each day is some combination of meetings with my artists, collectors, curators, people on my team as well as other gallerists, studio visits with artists, spending time in the gallery greeting the people who come in, a tonne of administrative work, research, writing… the list goes on.

 

Even after the gallery closes for the day, my work day usually is far from over. Attending events at the gallery, artist talks, dinners, galas, and art openings is also an important part of the job—a part that is both exciting and tiring all at once.

 

You’ve styled pieces from ‘Provenance’ against the backdrop of your family home in Toronto. How did growing up here shape your appreciation for art?

 

It was extremely important to my mother—a textile artist and collector of West African art—that all her children lived and breathed art. Art was everywhere in my childhood—on the walls of our home, in our after-school activities, at camp, in our books, and on our vacations. I almost had no choice but to make a career in the arts.

Hannah Traore in the Romarin Knit Bodice Midi Dress

“One reason I love living in New York is the creative ways that people style themselves. I see a walking piece of art almost every single day.”

Aje’s ‘Provenance’ collection is inspired by the golden light of Provence and the artists, such as Matisse and Picasso, who sought its luminescence to experiment with new reliefs and colour palettes. What memories or thoughts come to mind when we evoke…

 

Your first childhood memory of art?

 

Seeing Degas' Little Dancer of Fourteen Years in person. As a little dancer myself, I was mesmerised by her tutu, her hair ribbon, and her pose.

 

… An artist whose work you always return to?

 

A fellow Malian, photographer Malick Sidibe will forever be my art hero. I grew up immersed in his aesthetic and focused on his influence on contemporary artists for my thesis in college. It is my dream to own a print of his in the future.

 

… The relationship between art and fashion?

 

As someone who loves both art and fashion, I adore the moments when the two meet. The artistry of late designer Issey Miyake, for example, can easily be considered sculpture. One reason I love living in New York is the creative ways that people style themselves. I see a walking piece of art almost every single day.

“Art was everywhere in my childhood—on the walls of our home, in our after-school activities, at camp, in our books, and on our vacations. I almost had no choice but to make a career in the arts.”

As mentioned, ‘Provenance’ drew from both artists and their inspirations which artists do you find inspiring right now?

 

What a tough question! There are so many artists that have been inspiring me lately. I feel that Camila Falquez, James Perkins, Anya Paintsil, Moya Garrison-Msingwana, and Misha Japanwala are all really pushing their creativity and doing things that I have never seen before— that really excites me.

 

Which pieces from the ‘Provenance’ collection do you feel drawn to? Where do you envision yourself wearing these looks?

The Jolie Abstract Cut Out Top and Asymmetric Midi Skirt in Verdant Green really feels like me. It is such a showstopper. I can imagine myself having a great time at a spring art gala in this outfit!

 

What are your fail-safe wardrobe staples?

 

Anything passed down from my mother or grandmother. They are my style gurus, and I'm so thankful that they saved their special pieces for me and my sisters. Issey Miyake, Comme Des Garçons, Dior and more, all from more than 30 years ago! I'm so lucky.

 

How would you describe your personal style? What’s your approach to curating a look or wardrobe?

 

I find this to be one of the hardest questions to answer about oneself. When I put together an outfit, it really comes from intuition and gut, making it difficult to describe.

 

I do know that I love interesting colour combinations, shapes, and textures, but that can manifest into a lot of different ‘styles’. Honestly, the only way to describe my style is that it is totally ‘me’.

Hannah Traore in the Amour Ruffle Midi Dress

Like art, fashion is cyclical and has its ‘movements’. What is a style or look you would love to see reemerge?

 

I would love to see the reemergence of the Dior silhouette from the 1940s. Specifically, the suit jacket and skirt. I just think it's so flattering and romantic.

 

Besides New York City, what are some of your favourite art cities or destinations to visit?

 

Mexico City, Dakar, and Naoshima are three of my favourite art destinations. They all have such unique aesthetics. The galleries and museums were beautiful in each city, but what I love most about them is that I was enveloped by art just by walking down the street.

Finally, what is next for Hannah Traore? What does the future hold for you?

 

If I have learned anything in the first few months since the gallery's opening, it's that though planning is important, things will turn out how they want to turn out. Because of that, all I know is that I want to continue doing what I'm doing: working with artists who inspire me, and embracing whatever the future brings for me and for the gallery.

Shop the ‘Provenance’ Edit by Hannah Traore

Aje Insider: Hannah Traore

Photographer: Jorian Charlton