“It’s Nasty and It’s Stupid”: Dave Hickey Wants Out of Art Criticism

Perhaps inspired by Sarah Thornton — the “Seven Days in the Art World” author who announced last week she was no longer covering the art business with a rousing list of reasons — the influential American art critic Dave Hickey told the U.K.’s Observer in an interview this weekend that he’s had it with art criticism and the current state of contemporary art.

Hickey, a frequent contributor to major art publications including Artforum and Art in America, as well as mainstream publications like Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, who also teaches at UNLV and the University of New Mexico, isn’t in the habit of mincing his words.

“Art editors and critics – people like me – have become a courtier class,” he told the Observer. “All we do is wander around the palace and advise very rich people. It’s not worth my time.”

“If I go to London, everyone wants to talk about Damien Hirst,” he continued. “I’m just not interested in him. Never have been. But I’m interested in Gary Hume and written about him quite a few times.”

As to a way out of the current situation, Hickey pined for an artist-led movement that could have as fundamental an impact on the art world as the emergence of modern art at the end of the 19th century. He concluded:

I hope this is the start of something that breaks the system. At the moment it feels like the Paris salon of the 19th century, where bureaucrats and conservatives combined to stifle the field of work. It was the Impressionists who forced a new system, led by the artists themselves. It created modern art and a whole new way of looking at things. Lord knows we need that now more than anything. We need artists to work outside the establishment and start looking at the world in a different way – to start challenging preconceptions instead of reinforcing them.

Read Hickey’s entire, impassioned interview here.

— Benjamin Sutton