The Lester Bangs Of Art Criticism

Laurie Fendrich searches for the reason the "wider intellectual world" of scholars and intellectuals has given short shrift to the rogue art criticism of Dave Hickey. She finds that it comes down to biography:

Scholars find it difficult to accept that he chose to make Las Vegas his home for most of his adult life. They are put off by the fact that he calms himself by gambling and chain-smoking. They are contemptuous of his spending a lot of his early years consumed by rock 'n' roll, hanging out with the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, Nick Tosches, and Lester Bangs, and writing articles about (to use Hickey's words) "subjects with the shelf life of milk." Academics don't understand how a serious intellectual could have spent so many years not doing academic work, instead snorting cocaine and jamming with the Nashville-based singer-songwriter Marshall Chapman.

Late last year, Hickey announced his semi-retirement from art criticism, lamenting how the art world has changed:

I have to emphasize that I think the art is great. There’s as much good art out there now as there was in—maybe not in 1968—but certainly there’s as much good art as there was in 1978 or 1988. The difference? The art world used to let in gangs—the Pop gang, the Minimalist gang—and now they let artists in one at a time and isolate them from their peers. This is bad medicine. So, if you’re an artist, join a gang. Make up signs. Demand respect, but don’t drive-by critics. It’s our job to hurt you. Sorry about that.