Born in Brooklyn in 1933, Nat Finkelstein studied photography under Alexey Brodovitch, the legendary art director of Harper's Bazaar, and worked as a photojournalist for the Black Star and PIX photo agencies, reporting primarily on the political developments of various subcultures in New York City in the 1960s. In 1964, Finkelstein entered Andy Warhol's Factory as a photojournalist and remained for three years; Finkelstein's photographs from this period are now regarded as some of the most iconic of the time.
Since then, Finkelstein has exhibited his work worldwide in over seventy-five solo and group shows at museums and galleries including the Cedar Bar, the International Center of Photography, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Tate Modern, Victoria and Albert Museum, The Photographer's Gallery, the Saatchi Gallery, London; and the Ludwig Museum, Budapest, among many others. Finkelstein's photographs are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, and The Andy Warhol Foundation, New York; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; The Stedlijk Museum, Amsterdam; Hedendaagste Kunst Museum, Ghent; Ludwig Museum, Cologne; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, among many other public and private collections.
The author of The Andy Warhol Index (with Warhol, 1968), Andy Warhol: A Portfolio (1990), Girlfriends (1991), Merry Monsters (1993), and Andy Warhol: The Factory Years (2000), Finkelstein's photographs have appeared in top publications including Time, Life, Sports Illustrated, Harper & Queen, Vogue, The New York Times Magazine, the London Times, The Observer, Rolling Stone, Etant Donne Marcel Duchamp, the East Village Other and many more.
Nat Finkelstein died peacefully at his home in Upstate New York on Friday, October 2, 2009.
We are fortunate to have Nat’s widow Elizabeth Finkelstein discuss Nat’s contribution to “Delayed Gratification” and her vision of art in the Digital Age.Merry Monsters: Text by Nat Finkelstein
They burst from their pods,
A flutter of moths
Leaving behind taunts and teases and
Hasty liaisons with middle aged postmen
Money for the mall
They caught the breeze and descended
On their diamond city
They gathered together and became
And they conquered their miniscule world
And they never slept once and
Oh it would never end
But it did
I got to New York in 1990 in a creative quandary, the feeling that I knew I was going to do something but not yet sure what it was: sort of “not up for grabs but open to offers.” I had started shooting still pictures off the television screen around 1985, but in 88 after I got my first camcorder, I started shooting my own videos and deconstructing them. I extracted single frames, which I then shot with my analog camera off the TV screen, utilizing the screen itself as the subject. I began documenting the Rave/Techno scene in Europe and England as videographer and as executive producer for Robotnik Television in Amsterdam.
Back in New York, and always a dredger of the outer edges of the counter culture, I checked into the Chelsea Hotel looking for the latest anomie. One soon found me: his name was Michael Alig.
We bonded, a sixty-year old artist on a hunt and a twenty-something monster on the make. From here on in, I entered the maelstrom of Club Culture. I spent two years of documenting clubs and club kids: a pretty bubble, which burst leaving nothing behind.
Let us go then, you and I, on a journey through the acceptable
Unknown; a cannibals cooking pot with an ultraviolet lid; floating
Faces in a stroboscopic soup………closed eyes, spinning heads.
Every body cares so nothing really matters
The doorman was a painted queer. The bouncer shaved his legs.
The DJs lipstick smeared his teeth and she screamed as we
Walked in, ”Good riddance to decent rubbish.”
Farmers and teamsters in spandex tights and everyone singing a happy
Tarzan in his jungle and Jane in her hole. Sex-trannies in lemon
Hard drugs, soft flesh
MERRY MONSTERS in a paisley cave
Crying COME ON EVERYBODY
Which work will you be exhibiting?
We will be exhibiting Nat Finkelstein's photograph Kenny Kenny's Legs, selected from his body of work "Merry Monsters", a document of the international rave and club scene in the 1990s. Nat referred to his technique of shooting film stills from his original video recordings as "videographics.” This image was created in this way, specifically from Nat's video of the opening night of the legendary "Disco 2000" party at the Limelight, New York.
What is your charity or cause? Why did you select this? Where does community work fit in with your ethos as an artist?
Our charity is the Humane Society of Somerset, Pennsylvania, specifically for the medical care of shelter animals. The cause of animal welfare was significant to Nat, and a cause to which our family is devoted.
Having a sense of community is a privilege. In exchange for belonging, we should be compelled to give back in whatever way possible.
“Delayed Gratification” reveals the power of patience, of the change that takes place when reward is not the goal but a byproduct of success. Please talk about your ideas of Delayed Gratification. What do these words mean to you?
A far-reaching vision does not necessarily resonate immediately, but can remain relevant for all time. As an artist, Nat was well aware of this phenomenon. He never compromised his singular vision, believing that an audience would catch up with him in time. Alas, he is no longer with us, but his art certainly is. In the context of Nat's life and art, Delayed Gratification couldn't be a more appropriate concept.
Edition One Hundred is founded with the idea of providing artists the opportunity to transform new technology into a tool to both produce affordable art while simultaneously connecting to non-traditional art collectors. What are your thoughts on Edition One Hundred?
EOH is an innovative organization and I'm delighted that Nat's work can be represented in this unique way. As much as Nat's work reaching a larger audience, I'm pleased that the art collecting process is reaching a large audience as well.
What are your thoughts on Art in the Digital Age?
Technically, Nat was a pioneer in the field of digital printing, starting with the first Canon bubble jet machines. He became adverse to the dark room photographic process, saying that if he was inhaling chemicals in a dark room, he would rather it be under different circumstances.
As great of a digital printer as he was, Nat never got into digital photography. Instead, he worked from scans of traditional film and found that quite satisfactory. Personally, I have mixed feelings about a work of art in the digital age. Technology presents the possibility of images reaching a mass audience. However, and with Nat's work in particular, the question is raised: who owns an image?
Obviously it belongs to the artist, the image maker. Yet once an image reaches digital reproduction, mass consumption, the artist can lose control and their original images can be exploited. In this environment, the future of artistic and intellectual property remains to be seen.
Everyone's an artist or a photographer now with a bewildering array of new technology available. The bar has been raised. It's tougher to make a living. I'm happy that I lived and worked in the transitional era from film to digital and was able to experience both.
As an artist, you regularly produce work that is a manifestation of your distinctive vision. Yet at the same time you are influenced by the work of others. Do you collect art? If so, who do you collect? And if you had all the money in the world, who would you buy and why?
I do collect art, especially the work of our friends. Having a personal or emotional investment in a piece of art makes owning that work all the more special. If I could own anything, I would still choose work on the basis of an intense personal relationship with the piece.
Why should people buy art?
Our present culture sells disposable desire. If there is a mass market for crap, surely there must be a market for positive change. Life is short. Art transcends. My question would be, why not buy art?
Edition One Hundred is curated, limited edition art available in editions of 100, priced at $100.00. Prints are hand-signed and numbered by the artists in a size and/or print exclusive to Edition One Hundred. More here.