Farewell My Not So Lovely: Dave Hickey Says Goodbye to “Hedge Fund” Art World

At 71, the art world critic Dave Hickey is retiring–at least partially. Hickey, who arrived on the scene around the time of the “ferocious” artists, Robert Smithson and Richard Serra, when art openings were raging parties full of girls, drugs, and booze, announced that he would turn his back on the art world and never look back.

In an interview with The Observer, Hickey said that he felt the world, dealers, critics, and even artists had calcified:

“They’re in the hedge fund business, so they drop their windfall profits into art. It’s just not serious. Art editors and critics – people like me – have become a courtier class. All we do is wander around the palace and advise very rich people. It’s not worth my time.”

And it’s not looking any brighter when it comes to the art world future. Says Hickey:

“When I asked students at Yale what they planned to do, they all say move to Brooklyn – not make the greatest art ever.”

As a former art dealer, Hickey is quick to acknowledge that money plays an inherent role in the progress of art. But, today, money ensures that “winners win and losers lose,” leaving no room for new artists to emerge in the scene and allowing artists who Hickey insists lack any semblance of talent to rise, backed by the powerful. Hickey, it seems, refuses to play the game:

“What can I tell you? It’s nasty and it’s stupid. I’m an intellectual and I don’t care if I’m not invited to the party. I quit.”

So what is the notorious critic, author of the acclaimed Air Guitar and recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant to do when his world has utterly disappointed him? …

Keep writing, it would seem. Though Hickey retired from his teaching position at the University of New Mexico last year and insists he will no longer attend art events preoccupied with money and corporate sponsorship, he acknowledges his work isn’t finished–at least not yet.

There are essays and anthologies that need completing, plus a follow-up to Air Guitar, Connoisseur of Waves among other books. It’s clear that Hickey hasn’t abandoned art completely.

Underneath Hickey’s snippy farewell to the art world at large, there’s also a tinge of heartbreak and loss. In an interview with GalleristNY, Hickey elucidated his underlying motivation for exiting:

“I’m retiring because my time is up. Last summer I wrote catalogue pieces on Ken Price and John Chamberlain. They were both my friends and my essays turned out to be inadvertent obituaries. I take this as a sign.”

Kit Warchol