By Phebe Wahl By Phebe Wahl | February 16, 2022 | Lifestyle
These Manhattan mavens are leading the change, powering us all forward to level up.
Founder of Hannah Traore Gallery
“Of course, I am absolutely not the first female gallerist of color, nor the first to work with underrepresented groups, but I am proud to be joining the conversation,” says Hannah Traore of founding her eponymous gallery on Orchard Street. After curating an exhibition to get honors in art history at the Tang Museum on Skidmore’s campus, Traore knew she had found her passion. “I then realized that my vision was too important to me to implement in someone else’s space,” she shares. “If I wanted to do what I wanted to do, it needed to be mine.” Traore says she hopes to challenge the confines of what belongs in a gallery. “HTG will change that narrow idea of what belongs in a gallery. Art is a beautiful friend of fashion, education, design, media, food and more. I’m excited to make those connections in the gallery space.” Traore says to stay tuned for other innovations like her mind maps program. “It’ll be a special way to create community and facilitate creativity and conversation.” We polled the game-changing gallerist for what is now and next.
How do you think your gallery fills a void or need in the community? It’s rare that underrepresented artists work with a gallerist who is also from an underrepresented group and therefore has nothing to prove by working with them. The dynamic shifts when an artist feels fully understood and not exploited. I’m excited to fill that void for my community.
On your road to success, what were some of the turning points for you? Scheduling my first solo show was the biggest turning point for me. HTG was no longer a dream, and I was no longer the only person who I could be letting down. It also made me feel like I was on the right path... I felt like if an artist trusts me, it’s OK that I’m trusting myself.
What change do you hope to drive in the future through your work? More of us. More of me. I want to show other people like me that they can do what I’m doing. If there are more people genuinely championing underrepresented artists, then the less underrepresented they’ll become. That’s my hope for the future.
“I’ve always been interested in visual culture and tend to ‘notice’ things or find meaning in what other people throw away,” explains New York-based pop artist Kristin Simmons, who initially worked in advertising prior to pursuing a full-time art career. Th is winter, Simmons unveiled her first-ever exhibition at Bergdorf Goodman, entitled Obsessions & Confessions, offering a contemplation with playful, site-specific artworks that nod to underlying societal themes of consumption, consumerism, materiality, beauty standards and more—all while empowering New York City youth in partnership with Free Arts NYC (which a portion of the proceeds from all sales will benefit). “My work subverts images in popular culture and encourages people to look at things differently,” she says of her pieces, which mix painting, printmaking (specifically screen printing), sculpture and mixed media. “It embodies a bright, pop tone that’s playful and seductive at first but often reveals a deeper (and typically darker) message upon closer inspection,” she says. “I enjoy taking culturally relevant images and subverting their meaning or iconography as they translate to signs of wealth, power and societal definitions of success. Growing up in New York City provides tremendous context to my work, illustrating the trappings of an era that molded my generation,” she offers. “In particular, I’m interested in exploring what it means to be a woman in this day and age,” Simmons says. “We have been grossly underrepresented in the visual arts, and I encourage everyone to learn more about practicing female artists. While that may not sound ‘innovative,’ most people can’t name five female visual artists off the top of their head! In my opinion, inclusivity is the first step to innovation.” Here, Simmons shares how she is leading the charge.
What change do you hope to drive in the future through your work? Growing up, I often took for granted having access to the arts (both as a viewer and creator). I honestly don’t know what I would do or who I would be without that foundation; it’s a platform that everyone needs the opportunity to access. A portion of the proceeds of every work sold from Obsessions & Confessions—my first-ever exhibition at Bergdorf Goodman, running through March 20—will benefit Free Arts NYC, an organization that empowers youth through art and mentoring programs, with the goal of developing their creativity, confidence and the life skills required to excel.
What other projects or news can we buzz for the year ahead? I keep joking that I’m going to retire after this show. Even though I’ve had the privilege of participating in previous solo shows and art fairs, this is by far my biggest undertaking to date. I’ll definitely be exploring ways for people to experience my work virtually by entering the NFT world. I am intrigued by the metaverse and eager to think about what my work looks like in that space. At the very least, I know there is another glass ceiling somewhere just waiting to be broken... so stay tuned!
“We’re offering brands an option for a high-quality, natural and versatile material that minimizes waste and environmental impact, and that meets consumers’ increasing demand for greater transparency and sustainability in the materials that go into the products they invest in,” explains MycoWorks co-founder Sophia Wang, who recently partnered with Hermès to craft a new lab-grown material that imitates the properties of leather. The vegan leather is created via a patented process that turn threads from the root structure of mushrooms into a leatherlike substitute. “Our flagship product is Reishi, a premium, natural option for fine leather made from MycoWorks’ proprietary Fine Mycelium technology,” Wang explains. Other luxury houses are sure to follow suit. “There’s a lot of potential there still, but fashion has been the perfect fit for our technology, given the unique aesthetic features of Fine Mycelium, its customizability and its environmental advantages,” says Wang. “Changing systems as complex as manufacturing supply chains and infrastructures doesn’t happen overnight; it happens incrementally with every person and entity in a position of power aligning to the goal of minimizing waste, eliminating practices that exploit people and natural resources, and producing and consuming in a way that benefits, rather than harms, our environment,” Wang says. She shares her insights on the future of fungus.
How do you think your innovation fills a void or need in the community? We know that brands and consumers will not sacrifice performance and quality for sustainability. Fine Mycelium materials are uniquely positioned for broad adoption, and therefore to drive larger change, because we value quality, craftsmanship and customization. Brands are not only thinking about how to sustainably integrate new materials; they’re also seeking new possibilities for product design and customizations that can keep pace with consumers’ evolving values. Our fully traceable production process offers complete transparency into each step of creating Fine Mycelium, which enables our brand partners to off er that transparency to their consumers, while also supporting greater overall quality control and efficiency.
What change do you hope to drive in the future through your work? MycoWorks is empowering a shift in priorities and practices on the part of brands and consumers by offering a high-value option for leather that is both desirable for its unique aesthetic and performance capabilities, and that offers a new paradigm for how things are made.
What other projects or news can we buzz for the year ahead? MycoWorks has been working to scale the Fine Mycelium platform and commercialize Fine Mycelium materials. We just raised $125 million in Series C financing, which will enable our first full-scale Fine Mycelium production plant to meet the growing demand for our company’s materials. On the heels of our first partnership announcement with Hèrmes in spring 2021, we are excited to continue to roll out partnerships with brands who share our commitment to uncompromising quality and design excellence.
Executive Chef & Proprietor of Les Trois Chevaux
Heralded as one of the best new restaurants in the city, it comes as no surprise that star chef Angie Mar (formerly of The Beatrice Inn) is behind the buzzy Les Trois Chevaux. The downtown jewel box restaurant features Mar’s signature stylish flourishes like staff uniforms that were designed by Christian Siriano and the flowers designed weekly by Raul Avila. “My hope is that we can provide a classic, old-school experience, done our way, for those that remember the great restaurants, like Lutèce and La Côte Basque, and also introduce a new generation to the pleasures of the fine dining experience,” says Mar. Similar to The Beatrice Inn, the restaurant is already a hit among the smart set. “When I found out I had to leave the old Beatrice Inn space, I was devastated at first. But when I realized it was going to provide me with a blank slate, a place to really show the world what I was capable of, it was one of the most liberating moments of my life,” she says. “I suppose I’ve always had a bit of a contrarian streak, opening a fine dining steakhouse when casual vegetarian restaurants were taking over the city, and now opening a fine dining French restaurant when many are opting for fast casual,” shares the maverick. “I’ve never cooked for the masses, but it’s always done well for me.” The top toque checks in to share her recipe for revolution.
What first sparked your interest in your industry? I grew up immersed in the restaurant industry. My family has always been in and surrounded by the world of cuisine, so for me, it’s a way of life. When I was younger, my family wanted me to do something else, a lawyer or doctor perhaps, but the idea of not doing something in a creative field would never have suited me.
How do you think your restaurant fills a void? Les Trois Chevaux fills a much-needed void in not only the New York restaurant scene but also in the culinary scene in the United States. It’s very rare now that we see new restaurants open that are solely dedicated and focused on the classic French culinary arts. There is so much emphasis put on social media, and scenery places, but rarely is the cuisine delicious. There are also only a handful left of the old guard restaurants, the ones who have always represented and defined this style of dining. I am really excited that Les Trois Chevaux can pay homage to these wonderful places and the art of French gastronomy.
Photography by: PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNAH TRAORE GALLERY; PHOTO COURTESY OF SUBJECT; PHOTO COURTESY OF MYCOWORKS; PHOTO BY KEVIN TACHMAN/COURTESY OF SUBJECT