Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

An art critic who was worth viewing

Occasionally there are critics so brilliant, so juicily exuberant and alive with passion and poetry, that their work transcends its subject matter.

Australian art historian Robert Hughes, who died this week, was one.

His prose was rich and bawdy, visceral and dreamily evocative, lit with shards of withering wit and human insight. He understood that all serious, honest lovers of the arts are elitist about the art, and democratic about spreading the word.

If you're not aware of him, google his descriptions of Rembrandt, Bacon or Goya. They're as exciting as the paintings themselves.

Hughes bridled at the increasingly crude and commerce-driven place art was occupying in the world, comparing the job of the contemporary critic to that of a whorehouse piano player.

I'd love to hear his thoughts on the enlightened souls at Edinburgh airport who censored an "offensive" Picasso nude advertising an exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery this week.

But I doubt I could print them.

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