Art critic Dave Hickey, known for book ‘Air Guitar’, dies

Dave Hickey, a prominent American artwork critic whose essays lined matters ranging from Siegfried & Roy to Norman Rockwell, has died.

His books, such as “The Invisible Dragon: Essays on Beauty” (1993) and “Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy” (1997), received him legions of enthusiasts beyond the artwork entire world cognoscenti.

His classy prose, brash criticism of style-earning institutions like museums and universities and equivalent embrace of will work deemed equally significant- and very low-brow still left a long lasting affect on a generation of artists and critics.

“There is no one like him. He belongs in the canon of American nonfiction prose,” his biographer Daniel Oppenheimer wrote in “Far From Respectable: Dave Hickey and His Art,” released past June.

He died Nov. 12 at dwelling in Santa Fe, New Mexico, following decades of coronary heart ailment, mentioned Libby Lumpkin, an artwork historian who was married to him. He was 82.

David Hickey was born in 1938 in Fort Value, Texas, and grew up going all over Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and California. Right after hopscotching through graduate university applications, he dropped out and opened a modern day art gallery in Austin, Texas. He moved to New York in 1971, the place he ran extra galleries, edited the publication Art in The us and wrote for the Village Voice and Rolling Stone magazine. His operate and pursuits immersed him in an artistic group that integrated Andy Warhol, Dennis Hopper and David Bowie.


Hickey later on moved to Las Vegas to educate at the College of Las Vegas, Nevada. In the essays published in “Air Guitar” about how artwork ought to match into broader lifestyle, he championed Las Vegas as the most American of American metropolitan areas for its detachment from traditional social hierarchies.

The united states “is a really lousy lens through which to see Las Vegas, whilst Las Vegas is a wonderful lens by way of which to see The us. What is hidden somewhere else exists below in quotidian visibility,” he wrote.

Hickey challenged the plan that the Strip’s neon lights have been somehow inauthentic, pushed again from notions that Las Vegas leisure was culturally irrelevant and “particularly liked a very good smoke and gambling spree at Eureka On line casino on East Sahara Avenue, where by he was often noticed with a cigarette although jabbing at slot device buttons,” in accordance to a Las Vegas Evaluate-Journal obituary.


In “The Invisible Dragon” and afterwards operates, Hickey’s endorsement of “beauty” as the ultimate arbiter of inventive value ignited a clash with his contemporaries centered on 20th century conceptual art’s concept and this means, who desired to deconstruct the explanations why people today come across things to be gorgeous.

“He chooses to neglect the check out that elegance might be just what the ruling financial and social elites say it is. In the system, his adversaries argue, he substitutes his own bad-boy outsider judgments for all those of narrow-minded artwork pros,” The New York Situations wrote in a 1999 profile of Hickey.

Lumpkin mentioned her spouse in no way intended to winner traditionalism as his critics claimed.

“A ton of Dave’s get the job done was misinterpreted. The assumption was made that the elegance he was talking about was one thing very old fashioned, but he was a supporter of extremely conceptual artists from the beginning,” she explained.


His preferences had been in fact eclectic. He sang the praises of artists and figures in well-liked culture ranging from Norman Rockwell to Robert Mapplethorpe to Ellsworth Kelly. His essays coated basketball participant Julius Erving, reruns of the tv collection “Perry Mason,” and outlaw place new music.

In 2001, the MacArthur Basis awarded him a “genius” grant for his entire body of do the job. He was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame in 2003 and gained a Peabody Award for a 2006 documentary about Andy Warhol.

Hickey and Lumpkin decamped to Santa Fe in 2010 and approved positions at the College of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Lumpkin mentioned Hickey deemed teaching among the his most vital perform and legacy.

“He was a real intellectual with out becoming a snob and he trusted his pupils to be able to believe theoretically. When you set your have confidence in in learners like that, they get it and they make excellent art,” Lumpkin stated.



Metz is a corps member for the Related Push/Report for The us Statehouse Information Initiative. Report for The united states is a nonprofit national assistance plan that locations journalists in community newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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