Thomas McEvilley, 1939-2013


Art critic, author, scholar and A.i.A. contributor Thomas McEvilley died Saturday, Mar. 2 at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering hospital. According to a tribute posted online by poet Charles Bernstein, McEvilley’s wife, Joyce Burstein, confirmed the cause of death as complications from cancer.

McEvilley wrote numerous books on art and philosophy. Last year he published The Triumph of Anti-Art: Conceptual and Performance Art in the Formation of Post-Modernism (McPherson, 2012).

McEvilley was widely respected as an art critic, known especially for a series of letters published in Artforum in 1984 debating issues raised by the exhibition “Primitivism in 20th-Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

He wrote articles and exhibition reviews for A.i.A. on artists including Brian O’Doherty, Leon Golub, Marina Abramovic and Carolee Schneemann, as well as the art of India and Eastern European countries.

In 2005 he founded the MFA Art Criticism and Writing program at the School of Visual Arts in New York after serving for 34 years as a distinguished lecturer in art history at Rice University, in Houston. McEvilley received many awards, including the 1993 Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism from the College Art Association, a Fulbright fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Critics grant.