Critic on critic: Charlie Finch vs. Dave Hickey

At artnet Charlie Finch beats down Dave Hickey, whose recent SVA lecture, “The Good Ennui,” has been circulated online via the James Kalm Report. (SVA has asked that the video be removed, so click over and watch it now, just in case.) “Watching a video of another ridiculous lecture by Dave Hickey at SVA, one is not surprised to see that the bulbous phony is still up to his old tricks. Hickey is a guy who tickles his audience with hoary signifiers, constantly preens his own self-regard and takes an obvious theme, that is also false, and gently beats it to death.

“In his current dispensation, he begins by making a joke about not turning off his iPod during the lecture so he can listen to T-Rex. Well, people just love to cite Mark Bolan’s band as a lost reservoir of genius, and Hickey’s audience giggles in recognition. A less pretentious sophisticate might have referenced Nazz or the Flamin’ Groovies. Then Hick the Dick compares his hair to Einstein and refers to the with-it philosophe Peter Lanborn Wilson by his nickname ‘Tim’ and wonders if people are happier in Bhutan ‘when Uma Thurman’s father is there.’

“This is not insight. This is the same kind of vulgar vanity by association that one gets when opening the current issue of W to see a number of good contemporary artworks being debased by an Inez van Lamsweerde fashion shoot. Must the art world constantly be advertising its general lack of curiosity by slumming to the dumbest and most obvious signifiers in the wider culture? Dave Hickey is most comfortable with that status quo because he has fashioned a career out of his own intellectual laziness interfacing with the naivete of his student audiences…” Read more.


  1. Sheesh what a grouch.

  2. Hickey is an interesting man. He's at the point in his life where he's actually treating his own views as profound pronouncements. Nevermind that he credits friends with views that actually originated earlier with other thinkers. It was Marshall McLuhan who talked about cycles in art before Hickey's "friends."

    We are quietly ending our affair with abstract art. It may take another decade but this too shall pass. I'll send you back to McLuhan for the reason behind this.
    The problem now is making value judgements about the quality of art in general. Sadly New York, London and L.A. still have a monpoly on the used car lot. Others need not apply. We are surrounded by Sotheby "barkers" and "pitchmen." Consider that your work has no value because it has no provenance(See "pedigree.")

    Hickey is certain that he's right. I'm sure that two hundred published writers in the last three centuries thought their works would endure as well.

    Time is on my side.

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