A Glamorous Night Out in London With Hannah Traore, the Skinny on LVMH and Gagosian, and More Juicy Art World Gossip
Plus, which disgraced art dealer was absent from Frieze London? And who is hiring a combination gallery assistant-babysitter?
Every week, Artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops. If you have a tip, email Annie Armstrong at [email protected].
HANNAH TRAORE TAKES LONDON
Hannah Traore likes to mix it up. The 27-year-old opened her Lower East Side gallery this January, and the buzzed-about space challenges art-world norms in a few ways: the programming is dedicated to historically marginalized voices (which reflects Traore’s own Canadian, Malian, Jewish, and Muslim background), and the artwork is displayed in a non-traditional gallery setting, where warm hues and rounded archways invite gallery-goers to get comfy around the art.
Since I met her a few months ago, I’ve been curious to learn more about what makes her tick, and more importantly, to find out how she likes to party. Where better to do so than in Londontown? I met up with Hannah at birthday festivities for Antwaun Sargent, a director at Gagosian and member of the New York art elite.
7:54 p.m.: I arrive to a very chic townhouse in Mayfair, where a string of servers in sleek black vests are waiting to greet me with a glass of champagne. It’s a crisp evening in London, and I am feeling like royalty in the Burberry trench coat I thrifted on Brick Lane earlier that day and consequently won’t shut up about (though I’m hardly the only Burberry in the room). I spot Hannah, who is looking predictably fashionable in a sculptural black mini dress by Tyler Mcgillivary and hot pink sock boots, hanging out by the DJ booth.
7:55 p.m.: “Hi cutie!” she trills. Hannah is an exceptionally warm person—to be in her orbit is to feel her sunshine. Also to be in her orbit, I’ve found, is to have lots of photos taken of you. A quick skim of her BFA profile tells me she’s been captured precisely 378 times at events. (And, not like I obsess over this or anything but, for reference, there are 67 photos of me on there, and Hannah and I have been in the art circuit for pretty much exactly the same amount of time.) I’m in socialite territory here. (P.S. please do not look at my BFA profile—the photography is far too honest.)
8:27 p.m.: Which brings me to the birthday boy. Antwaun Sargent, clad head-to-toe in Alexander McQueen, jokingly implores me not to publish his age. “Tell them I’m turning 90!” he laughs (I think he’s in his 30s.) He and Hannah met a few years back, after Hannah—who was interning for curator Isolde Brielmaier, who is now deputy director of the New Museum—cold-emailed him asking for advice about starting a gallery. “I said, ‘Think about having a distinct point of view. There’s no point in starting a gallery and just showing whatever. Show people of your generation,’” Antwaun recalled. “The best gallerists, the thing they did was capture the zeitgeist of their generation. I told her to do that, because we don’t have that yet.”
The meeting was a formative moment for Hannah. “No one knew who the fuck I was, and he took the time to meet with me and just listen to me,” she said. “I felt so seen.”
9:01 p.m.: The crowd is starting to thicken up, so we weave our way upstairs where a truly decadent spread of food awaits us—fish crudo, artichoke hearts, decorated portobello mushroom caps, and some truly divine steak tartare. “This looks like that Sofia Coppola Marie Antoinette movie,” she says. I stain my new coat with an artichoke Negroni and momentarily consider flipping over the food table in anger. But ascendant photographer Tyler Mitchell appears, and we congratulate him on his London debut at Gagosian. “It was the thing where you’re unsure, you’re unsure, you’re unsure. Then Deborah Roberts came by to see it and said it was good, so I feel good,” he said with a smile.
9:47 p.m.: Each of us run into approximately 20 jillion people we know, and get separated for a spell. We reconvene in a truly atrocious bathroom line, where Hannah spritzes us both with her perfume—a very piney, masculine scent, which surprises me. There’s rumblings about Antwaun’s birthday cake coming out soon, and the image of Marie Antoinette returns to me.
10:41 p.m.: The dancing starts to pick up. We run into Storm Ascher, who runs Miami’s Superpositions gallery and is one of Hannah’s best friends. Bear hugs as they greet each other. “We were in 1-54 art fair together,” Hannah told me. “She knew I was struggling with sales, and I’ll never forget that she brought her collectors up to my booth. I could actually cry. In what world! From the outside, we’re direct competition.”
We also chat with Adebayo Bolaji, who’s shown work at Hannah’s gallery, and the conversation turns to the pros and cons of London. They’ve both experienced recent instances of racist micro-aggressions come their way from locals, and of course the topic of how expensive the city is comes up. Regardless, Hannah loves London’s intellectual atmosphere and the general British milieu, and confesses a ten-year goal to open a second space here.
Over the course of the evening, I am left with the impression that it must be pretty good to be Hannah Traore. In what world! she’d asked. But this is Hannah’s world, cultivated in part thanks to her cocoon of positivity. I ended the night feeling much more included than I ever have at an art-world party (seriously, don’t look at my BFA profile). I tell her as much.
“That snippy, extremely homogenous, white art world is not me,” she replied. “They don’t know who I am, and I don’t know them. The art world that I’m a part of is fucking excellent. It’s tonight. It feels like family.”
GAGO SAYS LVMH IS A NO-GO
As we know here at Wet Paint, the rumor mill is relentless. It is especially relentless for one man in particular, the blue-blazer clad maverick Larry Gagosian. I and others have been flies buzzing around his ears for a long time now (there’s so much material! May-December relationships, artist representation swaps—something for everyone). But the subject that is perhaps most intriguing to the art trade is the mysterious succession plan for the 77-year-old’s gallery empire. In London this week, one rumor has been pin-balling around quite rapidly: that French luxury holding company LVMH, which is owned by mega-collector Bernard Arnault, is set to buy up Gagosian gallery in its entirety.
Many heard it first on Nota Bene, the podcast run by my predecessor Nate Freeman and art advisor Benjamin Godsill. “I hear there’s whispers, and I don’t know if this is true, that [LVMH] may be making a move into the art space by acquiring a major art space… when there’s no succession plan in place, rumors fly,” Godsill said in the final minute of the show’s most recent episode, before Freeman cut in: “Rumors! Just rumors, Ben!”
The prospect is tantalizing. François Pinault, founder of the luxury conglomerate Kering and Arnault’s business rival, owns Christie’s, which, along with Gagosian, is one of the few art businesses with a brand strong enough to have name recognition beyond the art world.
Gagosian opened his first gallery in Los Angeles in 1980. Now, it has 19 locations and represents 86 artists and estates. The exact size of the business is unknown, but Forbes floated a $1 billion figure back in 2012.
Alas, several sources close to Gagosian have put the kibosh on the notion, saying there’s no substance to it. In 2019, the gallery named Andrew Fabricant as COO, positioning the art-industry veteran as Gagosian’s natural successor to keep the business go-going. Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the gallery said, “The company is not for sale.”
We’ll catch you next time for another round on the Gagosian rumor mill. Thanks for playing.
Ryder Ripps has blocked No Agency on social media after they called him out for standing behind Kanye West after his anti-semitic tweet, while continuing to campaign against the Bored Ape Yacht Club for using what Ripps has described as anti-semitic imagery … Orchard Street gallery Larrie is going to retire its physical space at the end of the year, streamlining its operations into a consultancy (keep an eye out for a final show featuring work by Sean-Kierre Lyons, Daniel Arnold, and Wentrcek-Zebulon, among others) … Silke Lindner, the former director at Jack Hanley, is opening up her own space in Tribeca at 350 Broadway later this month, starting with a group show of work by Justin Chance, Nina Hartmann, Lyric Shen, and Mike Yaniro … The Art Newspaper founder Anna Somers Cocks’ Instagram seems to have been hacked—or if not, she’s looking to transition into an “ambassadorial spot at online influencers program” (journalism is not a lucrative business, I get it!) …
*** The parties for Frieze London have been glitzy as ever, kicking off this Monday with Samantha Rubell, Jonas Wood, Oscar Murillo fêting Pace’s Sam Gilliam opening in Mayfair *** Did anyone else hear that Cher and Kate Moss were spotted walking the aisles of Frieze London? Jared Leto, Maria Sharapova, Jonathan Anderson, Laure Provost, Claudia Schiffer, and Bianca Jagger certainly were there, at least *** Not spotted, however, was embattled Berlin art dealer Johann König, even though his gallery did have a booth at the fair *** Over in Los Angeles, the Hammer Museum hosted its annual Gala in the Garden honoring artist Charles Gaines—Steven Spielberg, Catherine Opie, Kenny Scharf, and Tina Knowles-Lawson all showed up to party *** Cindy Sherman is back on the ‘gram with a new, delightfully jarring selfie ***
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WET PAINT QUESTIONNAIRE
Summer has come and past, but vacation photos last forever. Last week I asked who in the art world had the most enviable summer vacation, and Robert Dimin nominated Journal Gallery‘s Michael Nevin, who took off to a Greek island for a few weeks. “It looked super chill…” Dimin said. Curator Lolita Cros cheekily suggested that Gagosian interns probably had the best vacations this summer, and on a similar note, artist Diego Benavente Zúñiga added Anna Delvey‘s “inclusive resort package stay on the tax payer’s dime.” Meee-yow.
For my next question, because its October: Which museum could you plausibly believe is haunted? Email me your response at [email protected].
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