For Florence Lynch, Gallery and Retail Art Administration ’91, co-owning a Lower East Side art gallery is about more than selling paintings

If you’re seeking a guide to the art world, which can seem forbidding and arcane, Florence Lynch just might be perfect. A respected gallery owner,most recently of the two-year-old LYNCH THAM on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, she’s also an independent curator, critic, and lecturer. Lynch is fluent in five languages, and since the art milieu might be said to have its own argot, you could add a sixth. She moves easily among environments—presiding over her gallery, visiting artists in their studios, traveling internationally to organize and attend fairs and other art events, looking glamorous at fundraising galas, or teaching her class, Gallery Management and Operations, in FIT’s Art Market MA program. She’s someone who seems comfortable talking to pretty much anyone.

FIT-work-of-art-lynch1-largeIn October, as part of her philanthropic work, Lynch organized a silent auction of art objects (including a Richard Prince) for an event benefiting the Transfigur-ation School in Lower Manhattan. She was dressed by Zac Posen. Posen’s sister, Alexandra, a fine artist who previously worked on communications for Zac, regularly visits Lynch’s class at FIT to lecture on branding. “You go to galas,” she tells her students. “It’s an expense, but it’s part of your networking.” Lynch has organized similar efforts supporting the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Studio Museum in Harlem, among others.

She’s always been this way. In the ’80s, while living in Milan and working with a conservator of Asian antiquities, she realized her future lay in the art world, and chose what was then FIT’s MA program in Gallery and Retail Art Administration as her way in. (She had already earned her associate and bachelor’s degrees at the college.) She describes her graduate studies as “two years of wonders, amazement.” She created many sustained connections. She met renowned curator Richard Martin and department chair Dan Cameron, who helped her get her footing after graduation. Classmate Elizabeth Morina held a number of editorial positions (including beauty director at Vogue) and now works with fashion e-commerce startups; the two still talk every day, Lynch says. Teacher Jerry Saltz, currently senior art critic for New York magazine, became her mentor. Saltz says he recognized her promise instantly: “Florence exuded charisma,” he says. She “loved art, had a way of talking about art and to artists that told me right away she had a destiny in the beautiful river we call the art world.”

“You’re developing friendships with collectors;
it’s not always buying, buying, buying.”

Lynch is the sort of person who is not intimidated by status or reputation. This trait stood her in good stead while working on her MA thesis—on the Arte Povera movement. She went to Italy to do research, and secured interviews with gallery owners and museum officials on the spot: “A lot of it was done right then and there. Just, ‘I need to talk to you.’ People are very receptive to that.”
Back in New York, she became a director at the storied Salvatore Ala Gallery in Soho, and also curated shows that traveled across Europe, so that je ne sais quoi came in handy: “Making contacts is the easy part,” Lynch says. “I’m not afraid to knock on doors. I showed up t these museums and I didn’t know anyone, and I brought my presentation and met with directors.” Among the acquaintances she made during that period was an artist, Carlo Ferraris, who is currently represented by LYNCH THAM. He’s now also her husband.In 1998, she opened the Florence Lynch Gallery in Chelsea, which specialized in contemporary art, and over its ten years, she became a presence on the international art scene. She’s come to know critics, dealers, and the secondary market (connecting blue chip art not represented by her gallery—Picassos, Warhols—with collectors), and of course, artists. The galleries she’s worked with have exhibited such major figures as Yves Klein, Barbara Kruger, Glenn Ligon, and Cindy Sherman. She gets to know them in many ways: “Critics recommend artists, and so do other artists. Dealers recommend them, if it’s somebody they think is really good but doesn’t fit into their programs.” She also finds them at art fairs, survey exhibitions like the Whitney Biennial, and even MFA thesis shows.

lynchIn her course, Gallery Management and Operations, in FIT’s Art Market MA program, Lynch encourages students to think about the day-to-day challenges of owning a gallery. “What are your income sources? You can’t just be waiting for the exhibition to sell—and it might not sell, you can’t forget that. Appraising artwork? Commissions from other galleries? Art fair sales? Sales to museums? Corporate rentals—renting your inventory to corporations? That’s not enough,” Lynch tells them. “You have a lot of expenses”—from rent to installation costs to corporate taxes. “It’s mind-blowing! Which ones are negotiable?”

In this world, relationships are key, and nowhere is that precept more evident than in interactions with collectors. She meets them through art fairs and other events, both at home and across Europe and Asia. Often they come recommended by other collectors—their friends. When possible, Lynch told her FIT class, you should visit collectors’ homes: “They want you to see where the art you sold them is in their collection, and they want you to see their collection. And you want to see it, because you want to know what you can offer them.” You have to be careful what you show them; even if it’s a great piece, they won’t buy if it doesn’t relate to what they’re buying. “You’re also developing a friendship,” she said. “It’s a nurturing relationship. Sometimes they just want to talk; it’s not always buying, buying, buying. When you have a friendship with someone, it’s much easier to sell to them.”
If you’re seeking a guide to the art world, go with Florence Lynch. She won’t introduce you to a long list of luminaries and elites. She’ll introduce you to her friends.


The LYNCH THAM gallery showcases emerging and established artists, and no particular medium or theme connects them. “I want everyone to be an individual,” Lynch says. If there’s any link at all, it’s her fondness for aesthetic beauty. “There’s also ugly art and people who like that, and that’s perfectly okay,” she says. “It has its own attraction. But what attracts me is beauty.” She does admit to a weakness for conceptual art: “I like work that makes you think.” Jerry Saltz, senior art critic for New York magazine and her former teacher at FIT, says, “She’s got an independent eye, follows her own taste.” A few of her selections are featured here.


antichAlla Deriva, 2011, acrylic on linen,
92 by 78¾ inches

An Argentinian, Antich lives in Venice and paints images of an imaginary childhood, “almost in a dream state,” Lynch says. Though not literal, “her work is very biographical; it’s all about her.”




Crate No. 114 (Cassa con Bruciatura N° 114)

1969, 30 by 30¾ by 3 inches

Lynch initially co-founded LYNCH THAM with Bee Tham, a marketing expert, to have a space for a show celebrating the centennial of Cavellini (1914-1990), whom she calls “a very important artist for our stable: He is a historical artist, and we’re fortunate to have been able to establish a strong relationship with the Cavellini foundation, which handles the archive. He is, to some degree, the first artist who was mindful of what is now widely known as recycling. For the crate series, he destroyed and burned existing pieces to create new ones. A work that was before its time, as is Cavellini in general.”



Standing Carrot

2008, digital print, edition of 5, 55 by 40 inches, framed

Ferraris, a conceptual and video artist, photographer, and sculptor, creates work that “looks really simple or easy, but you and I wouldn’t think of it. I mean, I’m sure it was quite difficult to get the carrot to do that. It looks like it was Photoshopped, but it wasn’t.”



Healthy Suspicion (Portrait of Anna May Wong)

2014, acrylic and oil on canvas, veil, 23 by 21 inches

An Indonesian-born artist raised in the Netherlands, Ang primarily does videos, though he also creates portraits, usually as part of larger installations. His paintings, Lynch says, “are very subtle in color, almost always monochromatic. When he’s finished, he places a ‘veil’ over them, which creates a wonderful sense of three-dimensionality. But also a sense of ‘hidden’ and ‘revealed.’ It’s never initially clear what the viewer is looking at with these paintings; it takes a moment.”



Lands’ End Friends and Family

2014, acrylic on canvas, 30 by 40 inches

For a recent series, Robinson painted images from direct-mail circulars—Target, J. Crew, Macy’s. He takes the title straight from the catalog. Lynch likes the artist’s brushwork, and the way his images suggest stories. “It’s a little bit of a fantasy. Because nobody’s ever really that happy. Not like that,” she says.



Lothar Schreyer/Donald Judd
2014, ink-jet print on Dibond and frame inside a frame, 36½ by 55 inches

During a residency at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Henríquez, a Cuban artist, used images from the Museum of Modern Art’s online collection (all works used were in the public domain) to create colorful patterns. For this piece, she photographed a small installation she’d made using wood chips, then placed the framed photograph on top of the pattern. Lynch says, “That smaller frame has a different dimension, and creates this really fantastic dialogue.”


Lynch visits the studio of Walter Robinson, one of LYNCH THAM’s artists. Of a particular canvas, she might say, “Tell me about this blue here.” She never gives an artist direction, however. “I don’t feel that’s my place.” The pair might also grab a bite to eat, and gossip a little. “We really become very close to the artists,” Lynch says. “They need nurturing and attention.” Robinson, part of a group of artists referred to as The Pictures Generation, was also an editor at Art in America and Artnet.