Should we separate art from the artist?

R. Kelly was charged with 11 new counts of sexual assault and abuse on Thursday, May 30th 2019.

By: Reid Corley | Writer

When celebrities engage in inappropriate conduct, how should we react to the art they create? Should we boycott their films, their music, their writing? What about others involved in the industry?

There must be a separation of art from the artist, especially given the current era we live in. If we want to maintain diversity of film and appreciate the artistic passion and creativity of individuals for the sake of the product, we must employ separation.

Kevin Spacey was charged with sexually assaulting a teenager at a bar in Massachusetts.

Talking about the separation of art from the artist is difficult. It feels like walking on thin ice due to the severity of some artists’ actions and the backlash people receive from supposedly “endorsing” their behavior.

Senior Zane Sherman weighed in on the matter, saying, “Just because I think ‘Ignition’ is a bop doesn’t mean I support everything R. Kelly does.”

The appreciation for a piece of art should not indicate or imply the endorsement of the morality and actions of the artist.  People are allowed to appreciate the performances of talented individuals yet condone their personal choices, such as with Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen, or Chris Brown.

This in no way means we should put them on a pedestal for their achievements, but to throw out an entire work for the sake of the involvement of one person is unfair to the thousands of others who work on projects such as music or film.

“I think if we looked at every single bad thing done by anyone in the entertainment industry and discarded their work because of it, we would only have the Disney Channel,” senior Chris Allen said.

Using the context of an artist’s contribution to their work is possible, but skewed in today’s environment where works involve more than one individual. Like we saw at the Academy Awards, a film like “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which consisted of thousands of filmmaker’s time and effort, should not be abandoned and chastised by the actions of one filmmaker. Keep in mind, the director sexually abused more than 4 underage men. Should the work of Rami Malek and the thousands employed by that film be looked down upon for the influence and direction of a man who has done a horrible thing? No.

Ezra Pound was an influential poet who advanced the “Modern” poetry movement, but was barred from literature societies for his anti-semitic views.

It is understandable and natural for people to have an emotional response to the discovery of the vices of an artist, especially one they previously praised. Ezra Pound, credited with writing some of the greatest poems of all time, was a known fascist and anti-Semite.

That is why we must separate the artist from the art. If we continue to dig up the crimes and vices of artists and use that in our judgement of art, we are openly evading satisfaction and pleasure from artistic expression. For the sake of enjoyment and unbiased critique, it is not only necessary but imperative we establish this division.

4 Comments on Should we separate art from the artist?

  1. Dirt can be found on virtually every celebrity alive. Therefore, it makes sense that we should separate art from the artist–if we didn’t, how much “art” could we enjoy? However, even though this makes perfect logical sense in my brain, I still struggle morally to support the work of nasty celebrities. For example, I love the movie “The Crimes of Grindewald,” but I can’t stand Johnny Depp because of his infamous abusive relationship with his wife. Should I “cancel” Crimes of Grindewald? No. But I should “cancel” Johnny Depp.

  2. While observing and relating artists to their work may aid in your understanding of the art, boycotting it does not benefit or harm anyone. These matters should be left to the law and art should be left to the people to appreciate. If we look for issues with all creators, nothing beautiful could be enjoyed.

  3. Interesting read. I’m not sure where I stand for this issue. On the one hand, boycotting an artist along with all their works promotes the idea that the entire production team behind the works are also responsible, which is completely unfair. On the other hand, continuing to support those said works also implies that the artist’s actions are okay as long as the art isn’t affected. It’s an interesting topic to think about.

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