Robert Hughes is a genius. His book debunking Australia's history is a masterpiece, and this similarly witty trashing of Klimt and the rich twits who buy him is fantastic! If they didn't overpay for the pieces, most of these "collectors" wouldn't know art from a travel poster. Great line from Hughes: "Art has always been associated with money, but it wasn't just an investment; now, it's the bottom line." And trashing Damien Hirst like that! Wow! The Mugrabis are a joke. Thanks for this fab post, cutting through the garbage on FB! "I met Andy Warhol and he was one of the stupidest people I ever met."
He gives Warhol his due as a master of media, but can't help pointing out how vapid he finds the person behind the graphic art. Comparing Klimt with Leonardo is asinine, as Hughes notes, but that is what these "ridiculous rich dudes" do. They pay the money, and then need to assure themselves they've done something wise. The beauty of this particular encounter between collector and critic is the devilish laugh Hughes gives when Mugrabi admits he overpays for artworks to achieve a sort of immortality. That's where Hughes is much, much more than critic. He's exposing a shallow stooge for being a shallow stooge, judging art and artist by price tag. What give Hughes his heft as a critic who laughs at Mugrabi are his towering books on the history of Barcelona and on the history of the British transportation which formed the modern Australian character. He is not a critic in these works, but a keen observer of psychology and a student of society's structures; you could say Hughes has made a new kind of history to supplement Braudel, who simply laughs at the historians who write history as a never-ending tussle between generals: the price of Barley is more important to Braudel and Hughes than whether or not Wellington took advantage of Napoleon's hemorrhoids in that Belgian field. Hughes has weight far beyond criticism. He is a creator of his own perspective and his own history, and I'll be every penny I have that Mugrabi junior has never read Fatal Shores or Barcelona and has simply taken the path of ordinary rich people, the same jerks who buy "the best" because they can and not because they have a sliver of knowledge or instinct about what the artworks represent or how the artist saw the world around him. Van Gogh or Goya would vomit upon meeting Mugrabi; it is exactly this sort of jackal on the outskirts of creativity that every artist loathes. That laugh of Hughes, a chortle of pure contempt, at Mugrabi's idea that he is buying immortality, is a trap set for an idiot, effortlessly, intended with utmost malevolence, and Mugrabi steps into it with both feet. This is a fantastic video, required viewing for any artist who speculates on her or his own assets.