As we talked about on this week’s episode of Coincidence Control Network, Robert Hughes has slipped this mortal coil for that great rant in the sky. A consummate art critic, Hughes was as accessible as he was incisive — rather like the Carl Sagan of the cultural set, complete with his own blockbuster public television series.
Hughes wrote for TIME and he narrated a number of art programs for PBS and BBC but his masterpiece was The Shock of the New. Along with its accompanying book, Hughes’ Shock traced the development of modern art from Impressionism through Warhol. Debuting in 1980, the series’ last episode was prescient skewering of the art world’s increasing commercialization.
Cantankerous but committed, stubborn but straight-shooting, Hughes was a knowledgeable critic, a fantastic writer and someone who clearly felt that art and culture weren’t just the preserve of the privileged.
I’ve gone ahead and pulled together a Hughes playlist on my YouTube channel. So far I’ve added all 8 episodes of Shock including “Episode 5: The Threshold of Liberty.” Here is where you’ll find Hughes’ hilarious dismissal of Surrealism. I still don’t agree with everything he says here, but that’s not really the point. You don’t have to read or listen to Hughes to agree with what he says. It’s quite enough to simply enjoy the way he says it.