Here’s a review of the new Robert Hughes’ book The Spectacle of Skill. Ah, finally an art book written by a critic I’m interested in reading. Of course, I have no interest whatsoever in Hughes’ writings about art which have been invariably insufferable as are the writings of almost all critics I’m aware of. How artists have allowed themselves to be little more than lapdogs sucking up to whatever art critics/art writers decide is the meritorious art of our times is another part of the story of the end of art that perhaps one day some adventurous writer will see fit to take as a subject.
In other words, I still harbor the unlikely notion that an art writer with honesty, integrity and a deep concern for the truth might examine the origins and creation of the grotesque farce I’ve been part of my entire life. This would naturally entail concerning oneself with the vast financial corruption that has turned art today into a rotting corpse. I’d suggest somebody wanting to use a model for an actual report on the real art world would look at Nick Tosche’s “Dino”, which is the most brilliant dissection of the seedy underbelly of the great Entertainment Spectacle that began with TV and its Las Vegas/Hollywood Dream/Nightmare.
And Hughes is no doubt lending some small bits of illumination in the new book. But it has to be noted that it’s post-humous and therefore speaks volumes about Hughes own complicity and participation in arts destruction. Not to mention his gutlessness in not addressing what he reports on in the book when it might have made some difference. His posthumous “confession” strikes me me as little more than an attempt to misdirect the blame for the fiasco to the more heinous art critics:
The chapter that will open eyes in the art world is titled “Graft–Things You Didn’t Know.” In it, Mr. Hughes alleges that some of the best-known American critics, editors and curators of the last half of the 20th century were on the take, demanding (or expecting) paintings from the artists they wrote about, recommended or chose to exhibit.
He names names, in a big way. These include the legendary art critic Clement Greenberg (whom Mr. Hughes had outed in this regard) and Thomas B. Hess, who edited Art News and later wrote criticism for New York magazine. He also takes aim at Henry Geldzahler, the Metropolitan Museum’s first curator for 20th-century art, and many others.
Well, the odd note here of course is “chapter that will open eyes in the art world”.
Sorry. I’m well aware from writing this blog that the art world and artists in general have no interest (or perhaps even the ability at this point) in opening their eyes. It’s been abundantly clear for decades now that the American Art world has been a financial racket for years, with “pillars” of the New York Art world like Knoedler and Salander O’Reilly being found engaging in massive and outright fraud.
It’s good that at least Hughes would point out from time to time that an artist ike Helen Frankenthaler was (in his words) “overrated hack-ess.” Unfortunately, while writing the obvious about Frankenthaler he describes the overrated hack-ess Susan Rothenberg as a painter of genius. This is what I mean by a critic who has no eye or intelligence whatsoever when it comes to even a rudimentary understanding of what painting is.
The Gagosians and Zwirners and Saatchis are manifest con artists presiding over the greatest financial boondoggle in history. But artists grovel around tongues hanging out of their mouths imitating whatever they put on their walls, presumably with the bizarre hope that one day they too will rise up into this interstellar art firmament.
The only way art has even a passing chance at restoring itself to any kind of purpose or meaning is when there is a movement to entirely overthrow and delegitimize the people who have made a mockery of art. Not to mention the artists who have played along with the farce. Unfortunately, that seems to account for pretty much everyone involved in it… teaching and praising the bankrupt art of Duchamp /Greenberg as if they were the tablets handed down by Moses.