By NANCY SMITHAugust 2022
Until now, Everyone knows that infamous early Artnet writer Charlie Finch has committed his last act of shocking grandeur… defense – according to Walter Robinson, he literally threw himself out of a window and boy did that work – we are all remembering it now. He was not my friend, he was not even my acquaintance – he was my colleague. After reading a handful of photographs, Walter took me on as an Artnet event photographer in 2002. But it was Charlie who really gave me my first break and my first assignment: “Bring back photos of Tracey Emin’s opening to Lehmann Maupin’s radical new all-plywood Rem Koolhaas-designed space on West 26th.” My 3 photos released for the first time shone a light alongside what was basically Charlie doing what he did best: tearing poor Tracey apart. From, “There’s a perfect little bed… and the usual assortment of retardaire, spastic drawings, typical of Tracey’s catatonic fear of drawing, talking, thinking, and all things rational. “When David Bowie introduced us to Tracey three years ago, we told her you couldn’t get arrested in New York. now, she would barely be allowed to buy a happy meal.” – about the clinic: “More intriguing than her installation is Emin’s most unusual mouth, the beak of a seductively clumsy pelican of sharp relaxation, poor dentistry and careless living. It’s her most erotic feature.”
And my career as a photojournalist in the art world – it was over and done with…
Charlie was wild, but he always hit the button. Every Friday, everyone dropped everything they were doing to catch Walter’s fearless posting of Charlie’s latest salvo. The Internet had arrived in the art world – with fabulous glory. To me these guys were rock stars of the art world, a big part of the glamor of working for Artnet was being at the center of the bad, the bad. The Charlie Finch/Walter Robinson Art World sandwich. They fought like cats and dogs, “You’re fired,” “I quit,” bumping into each other – but completely joined at the hip. After the Tracey Emin coup, Walter gave me my photo column: ‘Art Lovers New York’ – Photos by Nancy Smith, and left me free to walk the stage any way I wanted. After giving me the debut push, Charlie moved on, but not before crowning me with my absolute favorite nickname: ‘Crackula’! ie sharp as a whip, likes to joke – and I think he sues me for it “Coagula – most of the art sucks” sheep, with flying honors.
Charlie would always tell everyone, at full volume, “Don’t underestimate Crackula.” When I finally got it, (in late 2004 self-publishing was a reality) and left to create my own website (after Walter fired me for the third time), before he first brought me to tears, of course, because: “I brought a lot of photos of musicians to the opening, and it was an art magazine.” Charlie told him it was the biggest mistake of his life. So, I thought, well! maybe we were friends?
I invited Charlie to a group show – where I was showing some watercolors. On Friday, of course, Charlie Finch came out The title of ‘Royal Flush’ on the show, titled something like, ‘An unknown art star is the gem of the show’ and, my heart started pounding, was I really going to get my first major recognition? Then as I read, Charlie continued to do what he did best – tear!, and I mean tear to pieces. She went something like, “in the midst of a strange performance, the jewel of the evening, was the small, half-forgotten painting, placed as an afterthought, next to a filing cabinet, in the back room office.”
Classic! Classic! Charlie Finch. Lure in and cut.
And so, he was – Coagula, to the end, even like his writing the star had faded, to that terrible but defining endpoint—through a window. WM