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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8492


Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (14:18): It is my honour to rise in support of this statement of condolence for Robert Hughes, who was born in Sydney in 1938 and died on 6 August in New York aged 74. Robert Hughes unravelled the mysteries of the art world and, in doing so, he reached out to new audiences, to people who themselves were not art experts. He was an internationally acclaimed critic but he was the great celebrator of the modernist adventure—a story he narrated frankly, sometimes brutally frankly, with a thick Australian accent.

He was also a great chronicler of the Australian underbelly in convict times, exposing a history we chose to forget. He was the finest travel writer since Ruskin. A man of letters, Hughes illuminated the arts with simplicity of language. He traversed the fine line between popular culture and making culture popular. He was part of the Sydney push, the wave of expats that left Australia during the height of the cultural cringe. But he was not a critic for the sake of criticism; he was a wordsmith and part of the vanguard that explained Australia to the world. He built bridges of ideas, knowledge and wit from our island home and he was, above all, a committed Australian.

Open any chapter of the international bestsellers The Shock of The Newand The Fatal Shore and you find the words of a universal storyteller who could translate the most complex of ideas. From the art of Australia to his tomes on Goya and Rome, he understood that art and culture are fundamental to defining history and to defining a nation. So he was a critic in the very best of terms. He was a critic who inspired reflection and advancement. Robert Hughes, therefore, hands over a mantle to the next generation of artists, writers and critics to themselves be the wave of the future, to be inspired and to do their best.

One of the most memorable quotes from Robert Hughes was published in Time magazine: 'The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.' And so whilst we mourn him we will stand forever in his light. My condolences go to his wife, Doris Downes; to his sister, Constance Crisp; to his brothers, Tom and Geoffrey; to his family; and to the member for Wentworth and his wife, Lucy, Robert Hughes's niece.