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critics Robert Hughes

Robert Hughes


Robert Hughes has been called the "most popular art critic in the country," and to have given Time magazine its "only consistently good writing" in recent years (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/5/93). As an art critic whose heyday has been in the so-called Postmodern era, Hughes has admittedly struggled with living in a new global world where there is no longer a definitive hotbed of artists living in one city, making one great thing after another. Hughes' views on modern art are fairly traditional: he values an artist's formal training more than his instinctual gifts, and he has been highly critical of art that he perceives as ostentatious or self-serving. Overall, Hughes' greatest contribution as a theorist has been to challenge the supposed hubris of Modern artists whose work lacks some greater purpose and exists solely for itself.

Key Ideas

Hughes believes that the art market is necessary and helps many struggling but talented artists to survive. He is highly skeptical, however, of some artists who in his view blatantly pander to the whimsy of the market. In other words, he distrusts artists who are motivated by the tastes of the market and not by their own vision.
Hughes reveres the great Abstract Expressionists of the '40s and '50s, while at the same time is cautious of bestowing too much praise. Above all, Hughes values an artist's technical prowess and his/her ability to be visually descriptive and earnest, but firmly believes that not all Abstract Expressionists are worthy of the same praise.
Hughes maintains that great art is a cultural manifestation of sorts, and that particular styles and movements cannot and should not be viewed as separate from their cultural and historical context.


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