MW | whitehot contemporary art magazine

Charlie Finch. Photo by Nancy Smith courtesy of Art Lovers New York

By NANCY SMITHAugust 2022

Now, everyone knows that Charlie Finch, Artnet’s famous bad boy scribe, committed his latest act of shocking flamboyance… the defenestration – according to walter robinson, he literally threw himself out of the window, and the boy did this job – we all remember him now. He wasn’t my friend, he wasn’t even my acquaintance, he was my colleague. After looking through some photos, Walter hired me as an event photographer at Artnet in 2002. But it was Charlie who really gave me my first chance and my first assignment: “Bring photos of Tracey Emin’s opening at Lehmann Maupin’s radical new, all-plywood Rem Koolhaas-designed space on West 26th.” My first 3 published photos, lit next to what was essentially Charlie doing what he does best: tearing up poor Tracey. From, “There’s a perfect little bed…and the usual assortment of stragglers, spastic drawings, typical of Tracey’s catatonic fear of drawing, speaking, thinking and all things rational.”, through “When David Bowie introduced us to Tracey three years ago, we then told him, you couldn’t get arrested in New York. Now, she would barely be allowed to buy a Happy Meal. – on the clincher: “More intriguing than his installation is Emin’s most unusual mouth, a seductive, languid pelican beak of sassy relaxation, bad dentistry and carefree living. It is his most erotic feature.

And my career as a photo-journalist in the art world was launched…

Charlie was outrageous, but he still pressed the button. Every Friday, everyone would drop what they were doing to overhear Walter’s fearless post about Charlie’s last salvo. The Internet has arrived in the art world – with fabulous glory. For me, these guys were rock stars of the art world, a big part of the fascination of working for Artnet, was being at the center of this bad, bad guy Charlie Finch/Walter Robinson art world sandwich. They fought like dogs and cats, “you’re fired”, “I’m quitting”, encouraging each other – but totally linked at the hip. After Tracey Emin’s coup, Walter gave me my own photo column: “Art Lovers New York” – Photos by Nancy Smith, and let me roam the scene as I pleased. After giving me my first headlining boost, Charlie moved on, but not before crowning me with my absolute fab nickname: ‘Crackula’! i.e. sharp as a whip, loves to crack jokes – and i guess he claims me for the ‘Coagula – most art sucks’ fold, with flying honors.

Charlie was always telling everyone, at full volume, “Don’t underestimate Crackula.” When I finally got it (late 2004 self-publishing was a reality) and quit to start my own website (after Walter fired me for the 3rd time), before I got burst into tears, of course, because: “I brought too many photos of musicians to openings, and it was an art magazine.” Charlie told her it was the biggest mistake of her life. So, I thought, pee! maybe we were friends?

I invited Charlie to a collective exhibition – where I showed watercolours. Friday, of course, came out the Charlie Finch The show’s “Royal Flush” title, titled something like “An unknown art star is the show’s crown jewel” and, my heart started pounding, was I really to get my first mainstream recognition? Then, as I read, Charlie did what he did best – tear!, and I mean tear to shreds. It looked something like “in the middle of a midshipman show, the gem of the evening was the small, half-forgotten painting, placed after the fact, next to a filing cabinet, in the back office -Hall.”

Classic! Classic! Charlie Finch. Attract you and cut you out.

And so he was – Coagula, to the very end, even as his own handwriting the star had faded, in that terrifying but defining final fall – out of a window. WM

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