Pre-eminent art critic Robert Hughes dies
ROBERT HUGHES, the eloquent and combative commentator and historian once described as “the most famous art critic in the world”, has died in New York aged 74.
The Shock of the New, his eight-part documentary about the development of modernism from the Impressionists through Warhol, was seen by more than 25 million viewers when it ran originally on the BBC, and the book that Hughes spun off from it, described as a “stunning critical performance” by Louis Menand of the New Yorker, was hugely popular.
It was decidedly not Hughes’s style to take prisoners. As early as 1993, he described the work of Jeff Koons as “so overexposed that it loses nothing in reproduction and gains nothing in the original”, adding that Koons had “done for narcissism what Michael Milken did for the junk bond”.
Of Warhol, the most influential artist of the last 40 years, he was not wholly dismissive but argued that his corrosive shadow over contemporary art ultimately did more harm than good.
About artists he admired, such as Lucian Freud, he cast the stakes in nothing less than heroic terms. “Every inch of the surface has to be won,” he wrote of Freud’s canvases in the Guardian in 2004.
The Fatal Shore, Hughes’s epic 1987 history of his homeland, Australia, became an international best-seller. He also wrote on Goya, fishing, the history of American art, Barcelona and Rome – and himself – even after a near-fatal car crash in Australia in 1999 left him with numerous health problems. – (New York Times)