Robert Hughes

From Quotes
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.
John Maynard Keynes
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Robert Studley Forrest Hughes (born 1938-07-28) is a prominent Australian art critic, writer, documentary broadcaster and republican (anti-monarchist).


Donald Friend (1965)

  • No original Gauguins were to be seen in Australia, for post-impressionism was officially thought to be the vulgar effusion of five-thumbed lunatics.
    • Page 24

The Shock of the New (1981)

Companion book to Hughes' TV documentary series of the same name. Thames and Hudson ISBN 0-500-27582-3

  • If the making of the series had one repeated phrase that still echoes in my head, it was not heard on the soundtrack; the inexorable voice of Lorna Pegram, the producer, muttering: "It's a clever argument, Bob dear, but what are we supposed to be looking at?"
    • Page 7
  • In the real world, mice do exist and they generally go about their business whether we see them or not.
    • Page 17
  • With hindsight, one can perhaps see that unachievable projects were the right monuments to an ideal. Because they were not built, they could not be destroyed.
    • Page 92
  • The essential difference between a sculpture like Andre's Equivalent VIII, 1978, and any that had existed before in the past is that Andre's array of bricks depends not just partly, but entirely, on the museum for its context. A Rodin in a parking lot is still a misplaced Rodin; Andre's bricks in the same place can only be a pile of bricks.
    • Page 393

Nothing If Not Critical (1991)

Selected Essays on Art and Artists. Viking/Penguin (ISBN 0-394-58026-5)

  • In America, nostalgia for things is apt to set in before they go.
    • "Introduction: The Decline of the City of Mahagonny"
  • The desire to be primitive was very much a function of fin-de-siècle imperialism; it appealed to strong egos and domineering minds.
    • "Introduction: The Decline of the City of Mahagonny"
  • Far from affording artists continuous inspiration, mass-media sources for art have become a dead end. They have combined with the abstractness of institutional art teaching to produce a fine-arts culture given over to information and not experience. This faithfully echoes the drain of concreteness from modern existence— the reign of mere unassimilated data instead of events that gain meaning by being absorbed into the fabric of imaginative life.
    • "Introduction: The Decline of the City of Mahagonny"
  • What strip-mining is to nature, the art market has become to culture.
    • "Introduction: The Decline of the City of Mahagonny"
  • Perhaps the rhinos and she-crocodiles whose gyrations between Mortimer's and East Hampton gives us our vision of social eminence today are content to entrust their faces to Andy Warhol's mingily cosmetic Polaroidising, but one would bet they would rather go to Sargent.
  • It was van Gogh's madness that prevented him from working; the paintings themselves are ineffably sane, if sanity is to be defined in terms of exact judgment of ends and means and the power of visual analysis.
    • "Vincent van Gogh, Part I" (1984)
  • The sense of not having the whole story that comes from living close up to traumatic events.
  • It is the nature of carnivores to get power and then, having disposed of their enemies, to deploy the emollient powers of Great Art to make themselves look like herbivores.
  • The hallmark of the minor artist is to be obsessed with style as an end in itself.
  • Like most artists who have made an invention of some kind, he tends to overplay the significance of his own and goes on about it as though it were a Rosetta Stone, with whose help all representation can be rescued from one-eyed falsehood.

Barcelona (1992)

Published shortly before the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Vintage ISBN 0-679-74383-9

  • New Song rapidly accumulated a nucleus of talent, and its best-known group was Els Setze Jutges, The Sixteen Judges, whose odd-sounding name came from a phrase used as a password by Catalan patriot troops during the rising against and occupation army in 1640 during the Reapers' War: "Setze jutges d'un jutjat menjen fetge d'un penjat" ("Sixteen judges on a tribunal eat the liver of a hanged man"). No lisping Castilian, it was believed, could pronounce this barrage of fricatives.
    • Page 11
  • Everything that would be said against the Eixample's heirs, from Le Corbusier's 'ville radieuse' to Oscar Niemeyer's Brasilia, was already said, with far less justice, about the Eixample itself. And all its critics concurred that the basic mistake was to have left the planning of a city in the hands of a socialist.
    • Page 284
  • One thing is sure: the Sagrada Familia is the first Catholic temple whose bacon was ever saved by Shinto tourism. Not even Gaudi, who believed in miracles, could have forseen that.
    • Page 526

Culture of Complaint (1993)

The Fraying of America. Harvill Panther ISBN 186-046637-0

  • It's bad to use words like 'genius' unless you are talking about the late Jean-Michel Basquiat, the black Chatterton of the 80s who, during a picturesque career as sexual hustler, addict and juvenile art-star, made a superficial mark on the cultural surface by folding the conventions of street graffiti into those of art brut before killing himself with an overdose at the age of twenty-seven. The first stage of Basquiat's fate, in the mid-80s, was to be effusively welcomed by an art industry so trivialized by fashion and blinded by money that it couldn't tell a scribble from a Leonardo. Its second stage was to be dropped by the same audience, when the novelty of his work wore off. The third was an attempt at apotheosis four years after his death, with a large retrospective at the Whitney Museum designed to sanitise his short, frantic life and position him as a kind of all-purpose, inflatable martyr-figure, thus restoring the dollar value of his oeuvre in a time of collapsing prices for American contemporary art. One contributor to the catalogue proclaimed that "Jean remains wrapped in the silent purple toga of immortality"; another opined that "he is as close to Goya as American painting has ever produced." A third, not to be outdone, extolled Basquiat's "punishing regime of self-abuse" as part of "the disciplines imposed by the principle of inverse ascetism to which he was so resolutely committed." These disciplines of inverse ascetism, one sees, mean shooting smack until you drop dead.
    • Page 195

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