I was never a fan of Louise Bourgeois' work but I was huge fan of her. Back in the 1980s, she was a regular at a lot of openings, especially at the gallery which represented her then, Robert Miller, and she distinguished herself by making ribald jokes, winking at everybody and being winningly flirtatious.
This was before the dull cult of Louise emerged, with its salons in Manhattan, anointing of the chosen artists and curators around her, and general celebration of everything she and her studio produced. While she couldn't draw worth a lick and fabricated a bizarre self-pitying myth about her bourgeois family in France, dosed with lurid Freudian hints about her father, and wryly sinister hints about various nanny types in her family (yawn), Bourgeois’ physical stamina and general jolliness continued well into her 90s, during which time she launched a whole new series of huge constructions that seemed, more than anything, well beyond the physical capabilities of a person her age.
The overall arc of her sculpture was a kind of scraggly, waggly nod to the Addams Family and the fuzzy cartoons of "New Yorker" cartoonist Ed Koren. Typical of the wasted monumentalism with which her cultists fawned over her was the 2001 installation of giant spiders at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, which looked like a bunch of Calder stabiles which had been left in the spin cycle of a humongous washing machine for a few extra revolutions.
Once in awhile a lumpy assemblage of deep red Bourgeois biomorphs might excite the eye (the Museum of Modern Art was especially adroit at cherry-picking the occasional bout of genius which might interrupt Louise's chain of mediocrity), but otherwise, so what? Bourgeois' influence was undeniable, Kiki Smith and Tracey Emin being two prominent examples, and, with her passing, the auction houses should clean up, regrettably. The rising tide of art-world conformity worshipped at her feet. Louise Bourgeois was not much of an artist, but she was a helluva lot of fun.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).