Hughes: ..There are certain areas in which America is extraordinary, mainly its museums. For 30 years, the center of the arts world was New York City. I don’t believe that now.… There’s no question that New York is the center of the art market, but I wouldn’t go any further than that.
Since I’m not a collector and not terribly interested in the world of the art market, I’ve never reported on the art market. It has always struck me as a vulgar activity. There’s no glamour in it for me. What matters to me is the food on the table.
Hughes: There’s no particular place anymore. Artists happen to be rather scattered about. When I first came to New York, I thought I was coming to a place like Paris in the 1920s, a place buzzing with fascinating ideas. This was not actually true. It was booming, but often with a bunch of rubbish. Conceptual art, which was vogue then, couldn’t be more boring.
SMN: What is the value of art criticism?
Hughes: Art criticism is valuable to the extent that it is good writing. Most criticism isn’t good writing, but merely the production of words. There are some art critics today who I enjoy reading. Michael Kimmelman (art critic for the New York Times) is one. Either art criticism is good writing or it’s not. As for the famed power of the art critic, forget about it. It’s long gone. It was rendered irrelevant by the art market. The people with the greatest influence on the art market are dealers and auctioneers, not critics.
It good to be reminded that the centre of being the art market is probably not necessarily the place where the best art or artists are found.