Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Farewell "tough cookie" Robert Hughes

The great Australian art critic Robert Hughes has died in a New York hospital after a long illness. He was not only a writer of coruscating criticism, but a fearless opponent of an often mindless art market populated at the top by people with more money than sense.

The brief video conversation between Hughes and art collector Alberto Mugrabi (posted below), whose father is said to own around 800 Andy Warhol paintings, is as telling a tribute to Hughes as one could wish for.

Marion Maneker's Art Market Monitor blog — a lamentably unquestioning cheerleader for the art market — described Hughes's approach in this clip as "bullying," failing to appreciate that this was the essence of Hughes's style and critical mindset. If he appeared bullying it is perhaps because Mugrabi was made to look like a man without any real opinion or critical apparatus of his own.

"It reminds one of the great antipathy that exists towards the art market," concluded Maneker. You're misguided there, Marion. It reveals how there are still a few people (Hughes's death sadly now makes it one fewer) who know that the art market would be a better place were it not entirely dominated by people with no properly developed opinions but who are rich enough to stockpile works of art as if they were cans of beans.

As Hughes departs Mugrabi's apartment, the New York dealer is heard to mutter, "He's a tough cookie." He was, and for that very reason he will be sadly missed.


Kirsten Hower said...

I am so happy to see this specific interview used to commemorate his memory!


I have enjoyed tremendously the interview relayed by this video. The directness and simplicity of the interviewer are admirable. Why do we not have more critics like Robert Hughes? The amount of resources spent on some art works in our contemporary world where others do not have enough food or potable water can only be attributed to the selfishness of a class of persons who do not really care about mankind. Their only abiding moral is their own prestige.

Thembi said...

I think you need to step into the bridge Tom. There's clearly a gap.You write excellently,informed, clever, scurrilous, and funny and irreverent. And nailing the ridiculous triumph of wealth over brains. Exactly as it should be. Avanti. I hope all's well with you and yours. Thembi

Pip Dickens said...

Great article, Tom. Hughes influenced me greatly from his early days as a young (and may I say rather attractive presenter of art on TV) and through his books 'The Fatal Shore', 'Nothing if Not Critical' and 'The Shock of The New'. Beyond his tragic car accident he still had grit and a razor-sharp mind. There are very few brave, individual thinkers in the art world today. I was genuinely shock and saddened by news of his demise.