In Profile

Tarrah von Lintel

BY Sarah Schmerler, February 13, 2018

What draws you to a photograph: Composition? Subject matter? Or is it something more elusive – a sensibility rather than a material or formal concern? What if that photograph, upon second look, turns out to be an exquisitely detailed drawing in conté-crayon on paper by Joseph Stashkevetch? Or an abstract black-and-white oil painting by Turkish-born artist Canan Tolon? Chances are you are spending the day at the Los Angeles gallery of Tarrah von Lintel, who has been showing contemporary art and photography for 25 years. Von Lintel’s photography stable, which began with artists like Edward Burtynsky (whose aerial photos could easily be mistaken for paintings), has swelled to include practitioners creating lensless images (photograms by Farrah Karapetian, frottage prints by Klea McKenna). “When someone is looking at artwork that isn’t quite what it seems, they are probably going to spend longer with it,” says von Lintel. “They will have to work a little harder, meet it halfway. Since what we are after is a long-term dialogue between collectors and artworks, I think that helps tremendously.”

Von Lintel’s life has been marked by several meaningful transitions. The 55-year-old dealer (who transitioned fully from male to female in 2016) was raised outside of Munich by her father, an entrepreneur who sold Pop art and English antiques. (Von Lintel’s mother died when she was six months old.) Eastern mysticism and a steady stream of houseguests pursuing enlightenment were the norm during her childhood. Von Lintel traveled to the United States to attend Manhattan College in New York and then Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, majoring in finance and investments. “Because of my father’s financial acrobatics and turmoil,” she says, “I decided to be [financially] independent.”

Upon graduation, von Lintel sold software for a German-held company, and three years later, she was hired by the Austrian bank Creditanstalt Bankverein and transferred to Vienna. After a move to London, she was picked up by Salomon Brothers. The job required long hours, and one day a colleague confided that he’d tucked away a tidy million and was about to start traveling. His flight, Pan Am Flight 103, exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. It was then that von Lintel knew it was time for a change. “I quit,” she says. “And I made a list of what was most important in my life, and art was at the top.”

She moved to Paris and began learning the ropes at Galerie Claire Burrus, then became director of Thaddeus Ropac’s Paris gallery. By 1993, von Lintel was ready to start her own business, first in Munich, and then, in 1999, in New York, where she hit her stride as a Chelsea dealer. Fifteen years later, an increasingly decentralized art world (and increased rents in New York) propelled von Lintel to relocate to L.A.’s Culver City. “I thought I would never leave New York,” she says. “Now, to be honest, I don’t miss it. I have 4,000 square feet and a gallery space that’s configured so perfectly that, frankly, anything I put in it will look good. Please don’t ask me how I do it. After you’ve been in this business a long time, you just know.”