Art critic Dave Hickey, known for book “Air Guitar,” dies at 82

Dave Hickey, a prominent American art critic whose essays covered topics ranging from Siegfried & Roy to Norman Rockwell, has died. He was 82. 

USA Today reports that he died November 12 at home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, after years of heart disease. 

Libby Lumpkin, an art historian who was married to him, according to the publication, announced his death. 

His books, including The Invisible Dragon: Essays on Beauty (1993) and Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy (1997), won him legions of fans beyond the art world experts.

His stylish prose, brash criticism of taste-making institutions like museums and universities and equal embrace of works considered both high- and low-brow left a lasting influence on a generation of artists and critics.

“There is no one like him. He belongs in the canon of American nonfiction prose,” his biographer Daniel Oppenheimer wrote in Far From Respectable: Dave Hickey and His Art, published last June.

David Hickey was born in 1938 in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up moving around Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and California. After hopscotching through graduate school programs, he dropped out and opened a contemporary art gallery in Austin, Texas. He moved to New York in 1971, where he ran more galleries, edited the publication Art in America and wrote for the Village Voice and Rolling Stone magazine.

His work and interests immersed him in an artistic community that included Andy Warhol, Dennis Hopper and David Bowie.

Hickey later moved to Las Vegas to teach at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada. In the essays published in “Air Guitar” about how art should fit into broader culture, he championed Las Vegas as the most American of American cities for its detachment from traditional social hierarchies.

America “is a very poor lens through which to view Las Vegas, while Las Vegas is a wonderful lens through which to view America. What is hidden elsewhere exists here in quotidian visibility,” he wrote.

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