The question I posed in my Feb. 23 “Snapshot” — whether the work of an artist can be assessed or appreciated without consideration of the artist as a person — is still on my mind. I’ve realized that there are cases where I’m able to separate, and others where I can’t or choose not to.
For example, if Pink Floyd comes on the radio, I turn it off. I find that when I hear Roger Waters’ music, all I can think about it is anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Yet I continue to love the writings of Roald Dahl, who made anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements.
This quandary also pertains to art and its provenance. When I visited the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, I was wowed — but I also understood why the Russian Revolution took place. Opulence in the face of starvation will inspire rebellion. And yet, if the tsars hadn’t been immoral figures — spending obscenely on themselves instead of their subjects — we wouldn’t have one of the world’s great art collections, today open to the public.
Great art — in any form — can come from ignoble people and places. It’s the same way great people can be unsavory. I’m not sure this is a paradox, or just an enduring contradiction in humankind.
Back to Waters and Dahl: Why one and not the other? Ultimately, I guess it comes down to how deeply I value the art. I have come to the conclusion that — barring accusations of an actual crime against the artist — a blanket policy wouldn’t work. It’s artist by artist, consumer by consumer.
Shana Goldberg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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