Frank Talks

Ebony L. Haynes – Director at David Zwirner Gallery

Photo Credit Elliott Jerome Brown Jr.
Photo Credit Elliott Jerome Brown Jr.

Ebony L. Haynes is a writer and curator from Toronto, Canada. She is currently based in New York where she is a director at David Zwirner gallery.  Haynes was a recent visiting curator and critic for Yale School of Fine art in the Painting and Printmaking class of 2021. She also runs an online “school” where free professional practice classes are offered to Black students, world wide.  Prior to joining David Zwirner, Haynes served as director at Martos Gallery and Shoot The Lobster NY & LA, and was responsible for many critically acclaimed exhibitions including Invisible Man, epigenetic, EBSPLOITATION, and The Worst Witch. Haynes sits on the boards of the New Art Dealers Association, and Cassandra Press. She has participated in numerous public talks and symposiums at various institutions, including the Brooklyn Museum, New York, and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and has contributed her writing to multiple catalogues and publications. 

What was your first job in the arts? 

Foxy Production

What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?

I learned everything at Foxy Production. It was the best internship-to-full time position I could have ever imagined and is largely the reason I am even part of the art world today. I was there for 4+ years.

What do you do now? 

I am currently a Director at David Zwirner and am charged with programming and running a new sort of hybrid gallery/kunsthalle space— set to open in October.

Where are you from? 

Toronto, Canada.

What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?

Apply to the place you want to work and ask to work with the people you admire. People are always hiring and open to new potential interns / assistants / associates, even if it’s not publicly advertised. If you’re interested and passionate, someone will listen. And if they don’t listen, you don’t want to work there.

What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?

Crowd control during a Pope L performance at Art Basel. It was only “weird” because Pope L. was wearing a white gorilla suit at the time. It was actually awesome. I’m sure there’s something weirder but I’ve blocked it out.

What do you think defines a good employee? And what defines a good boss?

A good employee is someone who really wants to be there. A good boss makes their employees excited to be there.

Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?

For many people in the art world, internships are key to building experience that will help you transition into a role you really want. And so, make sure the internship is one that you really want! If you can, avoid internships that are just to fulfill a requirement. Try to be somewhere that you’re truly hoping to learn from.

What is the best exhibition you have seen recently?

Hugh Hayden at Lisson Gallery

If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?

Gordon Matta-Clark, Bob Thompson, Mary Heilmann, Pope. L, Renee Green 

What is/was your greatest WFH challenge? 

Wanting to cook and bake cookies instead of sitting at the kitchen table on my laptop all day.

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