Nothing If Not Critical: Essays on Art and Artists

Robert Hughes, Author
Robert Hughes, Author Alfred A. Knopf $24.95 (429p) ISBN 978-0-394-58026-5
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
This generous compendium of Hughes's ( The Shock of the New ) writings of the last decade offers an illuminating and incendiary look into art past and present. The author, art critic for Time , here spans four centuries of Western art--from Caravaggio to Picasso to Schnabel--and its reception and marketing by curators, dealers and collectors. Most essays take the form of brief reviews, yet each is crammed with enough historical fact and anecdote to delight connoisseurs and inform novices. Hughes's emphasis on social and political contexts and on artistic content balances the storehouse of provocative opinion he dispenses, which becomes increasingly caustic as he fixes his eye on the end of the 20th century. His analysis of today's bull art market is insightful, as is his critique of the theoretical frameworks that disguise much bad art, but the critic's disgust at contemporary art hype sometimes overwhelms him. The New York art world, he prophesies, is fast approaching apocalypse--and its shamelessly go-getting members should be sent back to art school to learn how to draw. When he is not blowing such conservative horns, Hughes provides multiple interesting ventures into the aesthetic and economic histories of Western visual culture. (Aug.)
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