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Sneki2's avatar

When enjoying a work of art, do you separate the art from the artist?

Asked by Sneki2 (2452points) July 2nd, 2017

If the artist is sexist, racist, homophobic, supports the party you don’t, lives a lifestyle you disapprove of, or sports anything you don’t like, would you ditch his/her art? Why? Why not?

Do you like the art of someone you’d otherwise dislike or disagree with?

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24 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

Usually I don’t know anything about the artist. My Mom was an artist. I have several of her paintings and no. I can’t separate the art from the artist because I know the deeper meaning behind her work.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

It depends, and it isn’t rational or consistent. I’ve been indifferent to the artworks of people I truly like and respect, and I’ve admired things done by objectionable people.

I won’t watch any movies directed by Woody Allen or starring Mel Gibson – I’m too repulsed – yet I can somehow overlook Roman Polanski’s past. It’s all extremely visceral, and I can’t explain.

zenvelo's avatar

Yes, I do. I prefer evaluating the work before I know the artist’s background. Knowing about the artist can bring deeper meaning, but the work has to stand on its merits first.

I really dislike being told I have to like a piece of art because “he/she was oppressed/abused/struggled/closeted/outspoken/disabled”, all of which may be true but the person is a lousy artist.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Yes, I can separate the artist from their art. If they infuse their views into their art it might become a different matter. A band who’s music espouses white supremacist views I could not listen to no matter how much I dig the music. On the other hand there’s a certain musician who has a history of espousing white supremacist views, but I have no qualms with his music as he has for the most part left his social-political views completely out of his music. Of course political music when I agree with the view I have no problem with.

Religious views in music I’m generally ok with. For example: there’s the Hasedic Jewish artist Matisyahu. I’m not Jewish. In fact, I’m not really a fan of the Abraham faiths in general. But his first album (Shake Off the Dust…Arise) is, to my view, absolutely brilliant. There’s also David Michael Bunting (better known by the pseudonym David Tibet) who’s Christianity is all over his music, but I love his group Current 93. (Although his particular Christianity seems to be one where the Eucharist is laced with LSD.)

Coloma's avatar

I appreciate all art regardless of the artists personal beliefs or affiliations.
People are multi-faceted and cannot be judged on their totality by one or two traits or belief systems. Even serial killers can produce amazing artwork. haha

canidmajor's avatar

If the artist has committed acts I consider to be heinous, then the work is tainted for me, and I cannot separate them. I believe they can be judged if their actions have seriously harmed others. The whole idea of “Well, he tortured children, but boy, he could sure write well so it’s OK” doesn’t fly with me.

Coloma's avatar

I wouldn’t purchase art from someone who had committed heinous crimes against humanity or children, or someone that thinks sculpting shit is art, but, one can still appreciate and separate the talent from the persons other bad traits. I can appreciate the art aside from the person. Not including lampshades made from human skin.

canidmajor's avatar

Maybe you can “appreciate” a piece that was inspired by harm to others, if I know about the artist, I can’t. The artist incorporates too much self into the work for me to separate the two.

flutherother's avatar

If I like a work of art I like to learn a little about the artist as well. It helps me understand the art when I can put it in the context of someone’s life. Sexist, racist and downright nasty artists must exist but the better artists are not usually of that kind and on the contrary they are very tolerant and accepting people who are focused on their art.

filmfann's avatar

I enjoy movies with Woody Allen and Mel Gibson. I understand they have said and done things I don’t cotton to.
Kirk Douglas is a different story, and I’m not sure why.
He stars in some of my favorite films, yet I don’t enjoy them the same as before I heard the story about his brutal rape of Natalie Wood. Maybe that’s the crossed line I can’t forgive.

rockfan's avatar

It depends. I think Michael Richards is a genius at physical comedy, and his racist rant doesn’t stop me from enjoying his character of Kramer. That character is so far removed from Richard’s bizzare personality

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

If I like an artist’s work, and then find out they are a racist, homophobic etc., it would affect how I view their work from then on. My dislike for their personality or beliefs would always be in the background.

I remember reading a story about Tommy Hilfiger not wanting black people to wear his clothes. I have since read this was a lie, and he didn’t say this at all, but while I believed this, it put me off even considering buying his stuff. He’s not an artist, but it’s an example of how someone’s personal beliefs did affect how I viewed their work.

josie's avatar

Otherwise they are not an artist they are merely a technician.

Unofficial_Member's avatar

I never care about who made the arts when I observe one. The artist could be black or white, dead or alive for all I could care. It’s different, however, when it comes to whether or not I should buy the arts, which I most likely won’t, because I don’t buy from annoying people. But then again, if the arts are really good and cheap I can put the differences behind me and buy them regardless. I guess I’m that opportunistic and pragmatic.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I don’t think you can, because the art represents the vision of the artist. This goes for visual art, music, sculpture, photography, etc.

@Unofficial_Member is partly saying what I would say, in that I don’t care the race or gender of the artist.

But if the artist is a bigot or some other sort of asshole, yes, it doesn make a difference to my enjoyment of the art.

THat’s why I will not watch any movie with Mel Gibson any more. A virulent anti-semite. I have no interest in seeing his acting.

Mimishu1995's avatar

It largely depends. Usually I have no problem distinguish pieces of art from the creators themselves unless they were being too intolerable.

I bring a lot of possibility into my judgment. What if the artist came from a social background where it was ok to behave that way? They definitely didn’t know any better.

And I know some artists who used art to confront their own demon. They admitted that they had that certain unpleasant trails and they wanted to use art to put their demon into good use. They often receive extra credit from me for being honest and sensible.

rojo's avatar

Yes, but I don’t think it is intentional. I simply focus on what I am seeing in the final product, not the person behind its creation. I have the same problem with books.. I can rarely remember who wrote a particular book, painted any given painting or sculpted a particular piece. (other than a few of the more commonly cited ones).

Coloma's avatar

Here’s a great example of the Q.

These artists may be in prison for various criminal acts but that does not diminish their talent.
Scroll down the page some very nice works.

JLeslie's avatar

Mostly yes, but there are exceptions. If someone was very sinister I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the art. If it’s just something like political party I could care less.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@Coloma, I think there is a difference between choosing to support prisoners who are producing art and giving your patronage to someone who you know to be a bigot, racist, homophobe etc. Prisoners are paying their dues. They’re being punished for their crimes.

We also don’t necessarily know what crimes the people producing this art have committed. They may also be painting as a form of rehabilitation. They may be helping others through their art. I’m thinking of Myuran Sukumaran who was executed in Indonesia in 2015. During the many years he was imprisoned for drug trafficking, he both painted himself and taught and mentored other prisoners. He reformed. Even prison officers cried when he was executed because he had turned his life around.

Coloma's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit Great story! Yes, as I said, I wouldn’t buy Nazi artwork, or art created by a pedophile or the art of a bigot, but the talent could still be appreciated even if despising the beliefs, behaviors of the person.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Yeah, Coloma. I was thinking about art produced by prisoners, and if someone like Ian Brady (Moors Murderer) or Ted Bundy had produced art, I think I would find it hard to ignore their history. Even if the artwork was all hearts and flowers, I just don’t know if I could switch off that part of my brain that says ‘yuck!’

cookieman's avatar

Yes and no. I can enjoy Jackson Pollock’s work despite how he treated his wife, but that fact about him always pops into my head when I see his paintings. I love to see Caravaggio’s paintings, but then I think, “Oh right, he murdered someone.” Same goes for Michael Jackson. I’ll think, “That’s a great song” but then immediately, “Probably a pedophile.” I’m not a fan of Woody Allen or Mel Gibson anyway, so that works out — but if I see them on TV, I immediately think, maybe for an instant, “Affair with Mia’s daughter” and “Antisemite.” And now Bill Cosby. I used to love his stand up albums and The Cosby Show, but now I think of him first as a (date?) rapist.

Sneki2's avatar

Thanks for answers, people.

I;m usually one of those that separates the art from the artist, unless the artist uses his/her art specifically to promote his lifestyle and views that I don’t agree with. Then I couldn’t enjoy the art. But if the art is not representative of the artist’s ideas, then I can enjoy it. If it’s good, of course.

For example, many writers have been arrested and imprisoned for their political views but they never addressed it in their works, so I had no problem enjoying them. Many of them have been outcasts, alcoholics, egomaniacs, criminals, all kinds of assholes and in general lived lives I’d never support, but they were still good artists. Often times, I completely disregard the artist and never even bother looking about his life. I just couldn’t say Mel Gibson is a bad actor because he is an antisemite. Those two have nothing to do with each other.

I think one person is way to broad, and your art does not have to reflect your political or other views at all.

I asked this because I remembered some artists that were great in what they did, but were shunned because their private lives were unconventional or problematic, or because they said or did something wrong outside their artwork.
I find it unfair; if your art is good, it should be appreciated, no matter how much others disagree with your private views.

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