Culture Shocker

Charlie Finch and his journal, Coagula, promise 'thumbtacks for the art world's pretty little ass.' his peers are feeling the sting.

About the gallerist Jeffrey Deitsch, Finch says, ''Because he is unable to have physically intimate relationships, Deitsch uses his gallery as a voyeuristic sex emporium.''

About his slightly menacing appearances at the openings of shows by artists he had trashed, Finch says now, ''That was just Grand Guignol posturing, nothing serious. You set up the clay pigeons and then shoot them down.''

For someone who makes writing about the art world his entire professional focus, Finch seems almost eager to see this world implode and disappear. ''In five years, I don't think there will be a contemporary art world anymore. It will only exist on the Net,'' he announces. It is a little sad, really. You can't get around the fact that Chelsea feels like the end of something rather than the beginning.''

Charlie Finch: ''I am not a Pollyanna. I am a misanthrope.''
Meg Handler
Charlie Finch: ''I am not a Pollyanna. I am a misanthrope.''

By promulgating salacious gossip about art stars in Coagula, ArtNet, and the New York Post'sPage Six, Finch may think that he is doing a public service for the art world--giving their lives the same level of personal scrutiny as celebrities, ironically elevating their status by denigrating them. But others disagree with his tactics.

''He is truly a mean-spirited individual who likes to make nice people unhappy,'' says critic Gary Indiana. ''To me, he is motivated by a very adolescent kind of substitution envy.'' Indiana describes a December Page Six item crafted by Finch that speculated on the artist Cindy Sherman's personal problems. ''The item ends with something like, 'Guess she's not going to have a very merry Christmas.' I mean, why do that to someone?''

''I am not a Pollyanna. I am a misanthrope,'' responds Finch, the outsider, who suddenly has been given the opportunity to carve a niche for himself in the mainstream. For now, he seems to be finding what would probably be better described as a grudging acceptance. Yet the outcome remains in doubt: ''It is kind of like when an artist's work first goes up at auction,'' muses dealer Mary Boone, who recalls Finch spitting on her at an opening (Finch remembers it a bit differently: ''I may have spritzed her unintentionally'' during an argument, he says) and whose artists have been subjected to frequent Finch attacks. ''You quickly find out what its real value is.''

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