The dealer David Zwirner has hired Ebony L. Haynes, a gallerist who is Black, as the director of a new exhibition program and commercial gallery space in Manhattan, for which she plans to employ an all-Black staff.
At a time when the Black Lives Matter movement has raised awareness about the scarcity and struggles of Black-run galleries, the new Zwirner enterprise represents a strong commitment from a mega dealer. “While you could argue that strides have been made on the artist side, the art world acts almost shamefully on the employment side,” Mr. Zwirner said, speaking of equal opportunities for people of color. “Something has to happen.”
Mr. Zwirner said he decided to give Ms. Haynes her own separate space. “She really presented herself to me in conversation as a thinker and an activist, and not just an art dealer,” Mr. Zwirner said. He added that Ms. Haynes will “have full autonomy” in programming exhibitions. She will also be part of the larger gallery operation, sharing in discussions with the other directors about signing and managing artists.
Ms. Haynes, who starts on Oct. 1, said she was excited about the possibilities. “There aren’t enough places of access especially in commercial galleries for Black staff and for people of color to gain experience,” she said. “I want to make sure that I provide a space full of opportunities and encourage them.” Ms. Haynes said she expected the gallery to open sometime next spring and to feature about four exhibitions per year. The gallery will also have a paid internship program for Black students.
Mr. Zwirner said he wants the space to attract more young people of color into the professional pipeline. “Hopefully people can join the space and get poached and work in the art world,” said Mr. Zwirner, citing how the Studio Museum in Harlem has paved a way. “We don’t really have that incubator, so I was very interested in that part. “Change can only happen with colleagues of color at the table, having the important conversations about the direction of the gallery,” Mr. Zwirner added. “We will learn so much.”