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.

Tom Flynn's speech on the Universal Museum at London Parthenon Marbles colloquy