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Chloe Wyma on Dave Hickey's '25 Women: Essays on Their Art'


Brooklyn Rail Editor Chloe Wyma writes a rather satisfying (but fair!) review of Dave Hickey’s “25 Women: Essays on Their Art” for the New York Times Sunday Book Review. She writes, “Hickey is neither art criticism’s reactionary philosopher king nor its populist Robin Hood, but a sensualist with an acquired taste for art that is resistant to interpretation and unapologetically elitist…” Admittedly, I haven’t thought about Hickey for a long time, but here he is keepin’ on, valiantly wresting the legacy of feminism from those panty-twisted academic feminists. Fight the good fight, Dave!

An excerpt of Wyma’s review below, the full version via New York Times.

The beauty debates have since cooled, but Hickey has stoked his reputation as a swashbuckler against the prudes and pedants of the ivory tower. For some, he’s a rebel outlaw. For others, he’s an anti-­intellectual huckster. Either way, he holds the distinction of being a public intellectual, one of a handful of art critics known and read by a wider audience.

For a man who has made a career out of pen-lashing art-world bureaucrats, it’s a bit surprising that Hickey wrote “25 Women” in memoriam to the New Museum founder Marcia Tucker, who died in 2006, a woman he calls “a politically correct museum curator.” It’s unclear whether Hickey is sincere, backhanded or somehow both when he writes: “My debt to Marcia is incalculable. She was brave, energetic and nonjudgmental to the point of having no taste at all. That was O.K. because I had enough taste for us both.”

Occasionally, the casual sexism that pokes through Hickey’s prose makes him look less like the art world’s enfant terrible than its dirty old uncle. Epithets like “haughty Southern bitch” and “surfer slut,” applied to the renowned postminimalist sculptor Lynda Benglis and the abstract painter Mary Heilmann, respectively, stand out as lame misfires in otherwise rigorous, thoughtful essays. (Compliments to whoever had the good sense to nix the book’s working title, “Hot Chicks.”)