Robert Hughes and Hilton Kramer

From left: Robert Hughes at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation bureau, Washington, DC, January 28, 1987.
Photo: Frank Johnston/Washington Post/Getty Images. Hilton Kramer, New York, 1997. Photo: Peter Aaron.

Only by demonstrating that he is on the side of History—aware of the laws of its unfolding, able to reconcile the art he likes with those laws—can a critic rise to seriousness, for otherwise criticism is merely the expression of subjective taste, and can claim no binding force.

—Robert Hughes¹

ROBERT HUGHES AND HILTON KRAMER had long, prolific, and important careers as art critics, writing for major mainstream publications with high national circulations at a time when such publications meant more in a smaller media field. Yet the very fact that these two gentlemen now find themselves sharing a Passages essay in Artforum—not only because of the coincidence of their dying within a few months of each other last year but also because of certain similarities in their more retrograde viewpoints—is itself a sign that their positions at key moments of transformation

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