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WORDS AROUND WARHOL

GALLED BY ANDY WARHOL’S sycophantic courtship of the rich and powerful, Robert Hughes published a smug 1982 rebuke in the New York Review of Books that aimed to depose the “King of Pop” in the name of high culture and common sense. Disputing Warhol’s general cultural relevance, and particularly the credentials bestowed upon him by left sympathizers, Hughes’ article gave voice to a welter of widely held parochialisms and exerted a substantial measure of undeserved influence. At the same time, precisely because his intent was defamatory, Hughes cut through the pieties that frequently occlude more congenial appraisals. In dubbing Warhol’s solicitous à deux with the Reagan presidency “the age of supply-side aesthetics,” Hughes singled out as evidence of Warhol’s artistic fraudulence precisely those inversions—the conflation of business and art, and the confusion of expedient conformity and

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