Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Robert Hughes R.I.P.

My favorite (and for many others) art critic Robert Hughes died in New York on Monday aged 74. Known for his tell-it-like-it-is approach to art writing, avoiding art speak and wading in with contentious opinionated criticism. Not afraid to say things like Hockney was the Cole Porter of painting and openly hating, among others, Schnabel and Basquiat. Like him or not his reviews were a joy to read, never descending to wishy-washy vapid description. His writing will be missed.

Michael McNay has written an obituary in the guardian, below is the opening paragraph, you can read the full piece  HERE

Robert Hughes, who has died aged 74 after a long illness, dismissed the notion of Crocodile Dundee as a representative Australian figure as "macho commedia dell'arte". All the same, Hughes as the Crocodile Dundee of art criticism is too good a parallel to reject: burly ocker from the outback, tinny in left hand, confronted by New York aesthete armed with stiletto, reaches with his right hand for his own massive bush knife, commenting slyly to his terrified assailant: "Now that's what I call a knife."
I described him in the Guardian once as writing the English of Shakespeare, Milton, Macaulay and Dame Edna Everage, and Hughes enjoyed the description. His prose was lithe, muscular and fast as a bunch of fives. He was incapable of writing the jargon of the art world, and consequently was treated by its mandarins with fear and loathing. Much he cared.

Here are a few typical quotes from Hughes:

The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.

The new job of art is to sit on the wall and get more expensive.

What does one prefer? An art that struggles to change the social contract, but fails? Or one that seeks to please and amuse, and succeeds?

Most of the time they buy what other people buy. They move in great schools, like bluefish, all identical. There is safety in numbers. If one wants Schnabel, they all want Schnabel, if one buys a Keith Haring, two hundred Keith Harings will be sold.

I have never been against new art as such; some of it is good, much is crap, most is somewhere in between.

The hallmark of the minor artist is to be obsessed with style as an end in itself.

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