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Finch, artnet and missed opportunities

Natalie Frank’s “End of Romance”

Brent Burket pointed out the latest Charlie Finch writeup at artnet. Here’s Burket’s post on the matter. Actually Brent’s alert came in in a roundabout sort of way. He directed us to From the Floor’s Todd Gibson whose post linked to the Finch and called it “seriously disturbing.” Gibson also implored the women of the world for a guerilla girl uprising.

I’ve long read Finch and thought yuck. But I don’t get too riled up about his writing unless it’s poison dagger stuff like it was with Elizabeth Murray. I couldn’t believe how he eviscerated her in what were highly inflamatory and highly personal words. I posted here that the piece was misogynistic.

So here’s what about the new Finch on young New York artist Natalie Frank. It’s not a poison dagger piece but it feels a little like a date rape: forcefully loving and then dismissive. It’s a weird piece and I think Gibson called it right when he said it was disturbing. (For starters Finch’s use of the royal “we” is just icky.)

Everyone wants to know why artnet runs Finch. I don’t have any insider information here although I have written for artnet and have (or had–I haven’t written for them for over a year) a congenial email and phone relationship with Walter Robinson whom I’ve always found a good editor for my Philadelphia Story round-ups and interviews.

What I think is that everybody loves gossip (including –or maybe especially– internet magazine editors). Gossip loves controversy and what is Charlie Finch but gossip plus controversy? I think you’re gonna see Charlie at artnet for a long time. Just don’t read him. Better to read Jerry Saltz who’s also on artnet. He is a wonderful reviewer with heart.

Part Two

In a follow up email from Brent we hear about Anonymous Female Artist (Edna V. Harris) and her attempt to get a feminist column inserted into artnet (what a great idea by the way!!!) Here’s Harris’s post with the specifics.)

Long story short, after some congenial back and forth between Harris and Robinson who agrees to the idea of the column, there are some crossed emails. And then the Natalie Frank Finch piece appears and Harris decides to ask Robinson what the eff is going on. She’s insulted and pissed off and issues an ultimatum — run my piece head to head with Finch’s and with a new intro dealing with Finch — or not at all. Robinson passes.

I think its a shame we won’t have Harris’s voice on artnet. She’s a great writer and God knows we need more writing about women in what is a decidedly male-dominant field (I’m talking the writing field, everyone knows the art field is male-dominated).

I would add what I’ve said for years now, that email is a blunt tool. No room for nuance — and it’s terrible for negotiation. We should all be picking up the phone more and emailing less, especially when negotiation and nuance are issues. It’s hard to say whether a phone call would have moved this off impasse and into something more fruitful but I think it might have been worth a shot.

I want to hope this isn’t the end of story. If Harris wants no more of artnet maybe another woman writer will step up and make a second approach. After all, there was agreement about the idea of a woman-power column to begin with. I believe that such a column would have many readers. And it could be fun, opinionated and with lots of attitude — and full of gossip and controversy.

Oh, and finally, what’s lost in all of this gossip and controversy? A discussion of Natalie Frank’s art!