Why Lehmann Maupin’s New Partner Fionna Flaherty Imports Her Jeans From Korea and Never Misses Her Poker Game

After more than a decade with the gallery, Fionna Flaherty was named partner last week. She told us what she values most in art and life.

Portrait of Fionna Flaherty. Photography by Daniel Kukla.

Fionna Flaherty is having a year for the books. After 12 years with Lehmann Maupin in New York, last week the New York-based talent was named a partner with the gallery, a title reflective of Flaherty’s respected and dynamic role with the storied gallery—and her dreams for its future.

Known for her strategy and rigor as well as her down-to-earth nature, Flaherty has been instrumental to the gallery’s expanded participation in international fairs as well as its growing collector base and her close relationships with the gallery’s artists.

Flaherty sees only opportunity in the future. “I feel lucky to have learned and grown alongside our incredible leadership team and the artists we represent,” she said. “As we enter this new chapter, I am thrilled to be able to steer the gallery towards new heights.” 

Her life outside of the gallery is just as dynamic. She is a wife and mother of two young boys, as well as a devoted fashion-phile. Her closet necessities include a Korean brand of jeans she asks traveling friends to bring back for her. In artwork, and in life, she is always looking for something to discover—be it the work of an octogenarian artist she says should be on people’s radar, or in her oldest and dearest friendship.

Recently we caught up with Flaherty, who told us what she values most in art and life—and why.

What is the last thing that you splurged on?

A really beautiful dress for my brother-in-law’s wedding, next year in Paris.

What is something that you’re saving up for?
A work by Nari Ward! I studied Nari as an undergrad and was so drawn to Lehmann Maupin’s program because of his artistic practice. I think he is brilliant and his work has a poetry and deep conceptual rigor that I could live with forever, quite happily.

Nari Ward, Balance Fountain, 2013-2014 (TBC) wheel barrow, window balances, mango seeds, Aluminet shade cloth, broken mirror 62.99 x 72.83 x 22.44 inches 160 x 185 x 57 cm Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.

Nari Ward, Balance Fountain (2013–2014). Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.

What would you buy if you found $100?

A pair of Delumine jeans, this brand from Korea. My colleague Emma Son, who is based in Seoul, turned me on to this small clothing store near our gallery in Korea that carries this brand and I have now sent multiple friends to the store and someone always brings me back a pair.

What makes you feel like a million bucks?
Making one of my two sons laugh. Nothing better.

What do you think is your greatest asset?

My empathy. I have found it to be such a connective force in my work with artists, collectors, and my colleagues, not to mention invaluable as a parent and spouse.

What do you most value in a work of art?

Something to discover. It can be from an artist whose work I have seen a million times or am encountering for the first time—a great work of art will always hold something to unfold, something to challenge, something to surprise you.

Who is an emerging artist worthy of everyone’s attention?

Longtime gallery artist Teresita Fernández curated an incredible show last year titled “Eyes of the Skin” which featured a lot of exciting new names such as Carolina Caycedo and Esteban Ramón Pérez who hadn’t previously been on my radar.

Who is an overlooked artist who hasn’t yet gotten their due?

Sung Neung Kyung is a very exciting new addition to our program who is finally getting his due at nearly 80 years old! Sung’s multi-media practice examines the construction of knowledge and power in work that combines performance, photography, and archival practices. He is included prominently in the [Guggenheim Museum] exhibition Only the Young: Experimental Art in Korea, 1960s–1970s, which spotlights the pioneers of the Korean avant-garde movement. It’s a must-see and crucial to understanding Sung’s prolific legacy and impact. We’ll be presenting his first solo exhibition outside of Korea at our gallery in New York in 2024.

 What, in your estimation, is the most overrated thing in the art world?
Joe’s Stone Crab.

Sung Neung Kyung, Apple, 1976 (detail) marker pen on gelatin silver print 17 prints, each: 24 × 19.3 cm © Sung Neung Kyung. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London. Photo by Netjjae.

Sung Neung Kyung, Apple (1976) (detail). Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London. Photo by Netjjae.

What is your most treasured possession?
I would say this small silver and gold bracelet my then-boyfriend, now husband, gave to me when we were fresh out of college. It’s simple and elegant and reminds me of how long we have been together.

What’s been your best investment?

My friendships and my family. Having people who ground you, challenge you, and make you laugh cannot be underestimated. I also own a pair of L.L. Bean boots that I have had since I was 16 years old. They truly last forever!

What is something small that means the world to you?

The portrait of my older son that Catherine Opie took when he was nine months old.

What’s not worth the hype?
The thing everyone else Instagrams at an art fair. Trust me, there are more interesting things to see.

What do you believe is a worthy cause?

Every Mother Counts’s mission is to make pregnancy and childbirth safe, equitable, and respectful for every mother, everywhere. In addition to investing in raising awareness politically regarding maternal health, they support programs that are community-based and are best able to identify and meet local needs, particularly for women who are underserved and marginalized.

I am so proud to be running the Philadelphia marathon this year raising money for the organization.

What do you aspire to?

To raise thoughtful human beings, to create space for others, to learn as much as I can, and to leave my monthly poker game victorious.

 

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