Robert Hughes Visits Alberto Mugrabi, and Other Adventures in Art Criticism

Hughs and Mugrabi.

Art critic Robert Hughes died yesterday in the Bronx at the age of 74. Later today, The Observer will have a full obituary. For now, YouTube offers some nice archival footage to remember Hughes at his canny, biting best.

Below, Hughes meets with collector Alberto Mugrabi, whose family owns hundreds of Warhols, and proceeds to grill him about his collection. At the beginning of the clip, from Hughes’s The Mona Lisa Curse film, he delivers a diatribe as he examines Damien Hirst’s Virgin Mother statue at Lever House in Midtown:

Isn’t it a miracle what so much money and so little ability can produce? Just extraordinary. You know, when I look at a thing like this, I realize that so much of art—not all of it, thank God, but a lot of it—has just become a kind of cruddy game for the self-aggrandizement for the rich and the ignorant. It is a kind of bad but useful business.

In the undated clip below Hughes delivers a rather inflammatory opinion: “If the Third Reich had lasted until today, the young bloods in the party…[would] be queueing up to have their portraits done by Andy Warhol.”

Here’s Hughes talking art below the Eiffel Tower. (Thank you to James Panero for linking to this out on Twitter.)

And to close this out, here’s the complete final episode of the critic’s popular Shock of the New television series, in which he discusses the rise of the contemporary art market.