It’s a sad thing to learn that Britain’s stable of art writers no longer can boast that marvellous if slightly erratic thoroughbred, Mark Glazebrook, who died earlier this month, aged 73 years.
Glazebrook’s career spanned most possible art-related pursuits. Having hoped to become a major painter, he had instead to make do with serving as director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery (1969-71), selling pictures at Colnaghi & Co (1972-75) and the Albemarle Gallery (1986-93), writing various exhibition catalogues and monographs, as well as producing criticism for, among other publications, Modern Painters, the Evening Standard, and the Spectator.
I’ll miss his writing. His prose was humane, literate, generally quite funny, always conversational. It slipped down easily — so much so, that only in retrospect does one stop to consider how much knowledge, not only of British art itself but of quite a lot else besides, actually informed it.
Glazebrook’s life, at least as detailed in a rather good Times obituary, seems to have been full of ups and downs. Did this contribute to the distinctive tenor of his arts journalism? Certainly, his criticism never hardened into predictability — and what higher praise for a critic is there than that?
Some of Glazebrook’s Spectator writing is, happily, still available online, e.g. here.
Filed under art, culture, RIP
Whatever else one might say about the durable, persistently combative art critic Robert Hughes, he certainly doesn’t need a blogger of unimpeachable, blue-chip obscurity to stand up for him. He really can fight his own fights by now. I do realise that. But, having just read a very silly article by Janet Street-Porter in today’s Independent in which she attacks Hughes for his recent dismissal of Damien Hirst, don’t think for a moment I’m going to let this realisation stop me from standing up, however unnecessarily, for Robert Hughes, a critic from whom I’ve learned perhaps more than any other.
Acccording to Ms Street-Porter, Hughes’ decision to comment on Hirst is purely a way of marketing his own forthcoming television programme, The Mona Lisa Curse. This, clearly, is a bad thing. (Did I mention that Ms Street-Porter’s seminal Life’s Too F***ing Short: A guide to getting what YOU want out of out of LIFE without wasting time, effort or money, is now out in paperback? And before you start, that typography is hers, not mine, starred-out swear-word included.)
Now, some might argue that, as a critic who can be trusted to produce a direct and pungent comment on pretty much anything, Hughes would, in the general scheme of things, both have been asked his view regarding an art-world event already gaining quite a lot of coverage even without his encouragement, and then to have denounced Hirst along the lines he eventually did. Hughes’ views on Hirst are well known, but perhaps marginally less familar than the journalistic convention whereby any truly edgy, transgressive piece of contemporary art must be ritually annointed with a smear of critical obloquy before taking its place in the canon or, for all I know, the auction room floor at Sotheby’s. For heaven’s sake, Hughes was just doing his job. The ‘crash! bang! pow!’ school of arts coverage doesn’t just write itself, you know.
As it turns out, however, being an art critic with the temerity to criticise art is the least of Hughes’ problems.