Hughes' opinionated and politically charged biography of modern art and its dialogue with a culture in turmoil is always on the side of the radical against the status quo. He is harshly critical of the academy and establishment, and of regressive regimes, movements and critiques. He hates oppression, elitism, and frivolous self-indulgence, which is his general opinion of postmodernism.
The Shock of the New was a hugely important part of my education, helping me to become conversant in the movements of modernism and the work and perspectives of many of its protagonists. It gave me the confidence to look at a Rothko without fear and to talk about the experience passionately. The pleasure I have subsequently experienced in seeing, sharing and discussing art is in large part owed to Hughes.