Objets d’Art and Objects

Roman Polanski cannot return to the United States because he pled guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, but skipped bail instead of serving his sentence. Bryan Singer has been accused of assaulting prospective actors and other under-aged men. Harvey Weinstein’s casting couch is too dirty to give to a homeless shelter.

All three men have put unforgettably fantastic films on the screen–Chinatown, The Usual Suspects, and Shakespeare in Love among them. I teach two of these films on a regular basis. All three approach stylistic perfection, and carry masterfully nuanced themes as far as a film can. Yet the way these men have behaved begs questions about whether or not we can–or should–separate the art from the artist. Your thoughts are welcome.

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31 Responses to Objets d’Art and Objects

  1. Ayden Dusek says:

    There are people in this world that make magnificent works of art, in whatever forms they may come in, but just because the work is amazing does not mean the artist is. Art should be separated from the artist, because the artist may have done some extremely questionable things, but this does not mean that the work should be frowned upon.

  2. X says:

    The art is separated from the artist. Yes, their films are “unforgettably fantastic,” but in the end, it is just acting. Theoretically, anyone can act, but to be good at it is learning to portray yourself NOT as yourself, but as a character made up in a story. Therefore, the art created by the artist CANNOT define the artist; it is separate. Their actions cannot be forgiven, cannot be excused because their works carry “stylistic perfection.” But in a less harsh and more reasonable view, it can be forgiven, but just not forgotten. All in all, you cannot assess a person completely by just watching them be someone else (art). You have to consider the actions that he or she does as himself or herself (artist).

  3. Guillermo says:

    The art should be separated from the artist. The artist may be a terrible person but it should not take away from how the art is appreciated. The art an artist creates should be able to be enjoyed on its own, rather than holding an artist’s reputation as the lens through which to appreciate the art. Sure, a child creating an amazing art piece should be admired as a child’s accomplishing more than an adult, but the art should also be judged alongside other art pieces.

  4. JoJo Kaler says:

    I think the artwork should be completely separated from the artist. Don McLean wrote one of the greatest American songs of all time (American Pie) that I listen to almost daily. However, he pleaded guilty to domestic abuse charges. The late Chuck Berry though making music that pleases our ears half a decade later, was a sex offender. Should we not listen to Johnny B. Goode simply because the artist who made it had some obvious egregious faults? The list of musicians and other artists who’s arrest records would make some wary of enjoying their masterpieces goes on. George Best, Eric Cantona, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Maradona, Bobby Moore, Higuita (who did the famous scorpion kick save), and Cristiano Ronaldo are all people who have appeared before judges for things ranging from sexual assault to tax evasion to running drug rings, yet I still enjoy watching them every week. Yes, they are obviously wrong in doing these illegal things, however their mastery of the art of football is what brings me to the screen every weekend to watch them play. If we stopped enjoying the art of those who have committed crimes or morally wrong things, it would harm the quality of art. Lots of great songs are inspired by experiences of illegal things like prostitution or hard drugs. If we let how we feel about the artists actions affect our enjoyment of the art form in which they produce, we are merely limiting ourselves to the great things that come from illegal things or people.

  5. KT says:

    I believe that art and artists should be separated. It is, however, important to educate people about the wrongdoings of an artist. Wrongdoings of the artist don’t negate the arts’ value. For instance, Hitler was an awful person but a great leader. As long as the artist isn’t glorified for the work they put out and the work isn’t degraded for the mistakes of the artist, there shouldn’t be a problem with the separation of artwork and the art.

  6. K says:

    Of course, it should be separated. One can appreciate a work of art without validating the artist’s actions. Their talent may say a lot, but their personality and how they present themselves can mean something completely different.

    Say you see the brilliant work first. You admire it and marvel at it and praise it. But when you learn about who the artist is and things they’ve done that conflict with your morals, the art is degraded. How is it fair to belittle the amazing skill and talent they have?

  7. Erin says:

    Art should stay seperated from the artist. The only thing that could be kind of uncomfortable is that seeing the artist in their movie or play, and knowing what they did. What they did was wrong, but their art should not have to suffer. If someone sees a movie knowing they feel some type of way about the director/writer, it could change how they view the movie. Going into a movie without knowing the director could make how they view the movie more positive.

  8. Taylor Shamblin says:

    I see a lot of comments saying that we should definitely still respect the art that they created, and after thinking about it and reading what others had to say, I am still just as puzzled by the question. One has to take into account the creator of the art they are viewing, no matter the medium (paintings, film, photography, sports). It´s easy to say ¨one should¨, but more often then not, people disregard the creator entirely and solely respect the complexity of the piece or mastery of the works.
    It is natural to simply accept and continue, and we do it all of the time now. Everyone collectively accepts the laws given by the government, agrees to stay on a certain side of the road, understands that we must obtain a job, and follows the mandate for education. I feel as if the same concept applies to artists and their work. When we view a creation, we dissociate the object from the mind of its creator– we see the work as an object to be identified and become subject to our personal analysis. And so, we do just that: we analyze, taking into account the ideologies and lifestyle of the art´s master, but all-the-while suppressing emotional reactions in favor of understanding the object itself rather than persecuting the creator. Of course, those who studied the art would say, ¨Oh it was terrible what he did!¨, but they would not completely sever themselves from analyzing the gem that they found.
    In fact, I would venture to say that humans are driven to study artwork made by another human with a dark history. We are attracted to the macabre. As most people suppress the desire to stare at someone that has caught their attention in the hallway, we also suppress the desire to observe the dark. This outward dejection of ¨evil imagery¨ has cemented itself as a societal faux pas.
    As children we play games like Cowboys and Indians or Grand Theft Auto– all violent games, but all somewhat healthy for a developing child. These games allow children to identify themselves as powerful beings in a cruel world, and it provides a smooth transition into a stable identity of power in adolescence and adulthood. The same can be said for the macabre. People reject the notion of enjoying art if it has a sliver of damnation on its coattail, but there is an internal rush at witnessing the destruction and the havoc withing the medium. Shed the suppression and enjoy the art, even if you don´t support the creator in their lifestyle.

  9. Geneva Hamilton says:

    Separating the art from the artist is a hard thing to do. As one supports and buys art, the artist benefits. Supporting their art only adds to the artist’s power and money needed to be irresponsible and reckless. Buying and supporting their art also means you are indirectly tolerating their character and actions. Artists who do bad things and still have a large consumer base feel as though there was no consequence therefore its okay to violate again. Buying the art from a corrupt artist is like putting a knife in a murderer’s hands.

  10. E. T. says:

    Most art should be divided from its creator. The art of acting especially separates between an entire film and the individual actor. Hundreds of people go into the film-making process. From costume-design to shoot location and editing, one actor simply moves one part of the film. They assume another’s identity in a compelling and sometimes unforgettable experience. These people are also human, susceptible to mistakes. While they may commit unforgivable crimes, their performance is not representable of their own character.

    I would like to point out that one group may not excuse itself from justice-Youtubers. Content Creators such as Logan Paul build a career around vlogs or video logs of their daily life. With millions of followers, their life grows more and more sensationally. One interesting video features setting fire to his swimming pool, but his content goes too far. In 2018, he filmed a video around the Aokigahara “Suicide” Forest in Japan. His inappropriate reactions brought him to the front of the media world. Arguably another form of acting, Youtubers are deeply intertwined with their content and character.

    Sources: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/25/580602280/logan-paul-issues-suicide-awareness-video-in-return-to-youtube.

  11. Alyssa says:

    I believe that it is hard to separate the art from the artist. In many cases when we find some type of art form that we love, we often want to know more about the artist and start to admire them. There are many artists that are bad influences, especially in this day and time. There are lots of people that try to mimic the artists that they look up to the most, not only in art work, but also in actions. A great example is to go to Memphis, Atlanta, and California and you will see people trying to live a similar life style as their favorite music artist, play write, or actor. Also, in this day and time we see most of what our favorite artist’s do because none of us really live private lives anymore. We really have to take into account that people are more likely to fall into the trap of a beautiful celebrity life by someone that is dangerous now, more than ever.

    But if you feel as if you will not be affected in anyway, then by all means separate the art from the artists. That is a choice that someone else must choose to make based on their own morals.

  12. Nathan Lee says:

    As long as the artist is punished, art should be enjoyed regardless of the creator’s bad deeds. It’s important to focus on the greatness of the work and admire it despite the knowledge of the creator’s actions. For example, if a person I disliked created a song I enjoyed, I would not stop listening to the song only because of how I felt about that person. In a sense, art should not be tarnished by the creator’s reputation. It should only be judged by its quality.

  13. Xavier Lucas-Cooper says:

    The art should, in fact, be separated from the artist. The art, itself did not do anything wrong, but the artist did. In cases like Chris Brown and his relationship with Rihanna, I believe that people should be able to enjoy his music without feeling looked down upon. The stigma surrounded around these artists is ultimately detrimental to the artist as well as the art itself. It also speaks on society because society is not able to see past the artist’s wrongdoing and see the art as art.

  14. Eli Dosda says:

    I believe that it should be separated from the artist, simply because eventually the people behind the art will fade into obscurity. One may not remember the exact actor or painter behind something 20, 30, years one, but the art itself will be something that moves on and continues to be recognized.

  15. Alexandra Magee says:

    In a perfect world, I would be able to separate the art from the artist. Who could deny the melodious perfection that is “Ignition Remix”? However, this is not a perfect world, and there should be consequences for offenses. We cannot continue to give people a platform to do evil just because the art is “beloved” or “good”. This sends the message that morality & law are based on status and character and not humanity. No one is above the law: God’s law or the United States’ law. All in all, the art is a reflection of the artist and, therefore, separating them would be atrocious.

  16. Ezra McWilliams says:

    When talking about their talent, their attitudes should not be a factor because you are talking about their ability to produce great films that make the big bucks, but if you talking about these three being icons and role models in today’s society, then the irrefutable statement is that talent and attitude along with reputation should be accounted for.

    For example, Terrell Owens was widely regarded as one of the best wide receivers in era and in his prime, but because of his on-field antics and altercations, people looked at his behavior and actions and weighed them more than his talent and influence at NFL Wide Receiver. Despite his ways and acts off the field, you cannot deny Terrell Owens was a great Wide Receiver, and to say he is not because you do not like him is a bad statement indeed.

  17. Samaria Swims says:

    I believe that the art and the artist should be separated, but sometimes it’s hard to separate them. In many cases artist make the most magnificent and special works, but the artists had done some really bad things in his life. People will still think about that when they see the art. I believe that the art should not be down graded by the artist.

  18. Khytavia Fleming says:

    You have to separate the art from the person. One cannot allow what someone has done in their personal life to affect the way they think of what they’ve done professionally I believe it’s okay to love someone’s work and not the person themselves. For example, “The Cosby Show” is one of America’s greatest family series hands down. Does it suck that Bill Cosby has raped multiple women?…HECK YEAH! However, there were so many other great actors on that show and even Bill Cosby’s character was amazing. Sometimes it’s hard, but you have to see the product and not the person. If we looked and examined everyone’s flaws and sins, then no one would anyone be happy.

  19. Bertha Mireles says:

    As Hollywood’s dark side is shedded light on more and more each coming day and the MeToo movement gains even more momentum, many great films may be ruined for many people due to the artists’ acts. For many people, the separation of the artist from the art piece might be difficult and for others it might not, however, people must be aware of their entertainment’s source. Recently a new movement against streaming R. Kelly’s music has begun due to his disgusting past as more women came forward to speak against him. In this case, people came together to stop streaming his music. For me personally, I take both the source of the artwork and the artwork itself into consideration. If by enjoying the entertainment/artwork provided by the entertainer/artist, the entertainer/artist is paid or getting popularity, I, personally, would not pay money or endorse the entertainer/artist in any way.

  20. Chloe Jackson says:

    I do not think that ones art should be separate from the artist because, the art is a reflection of whatever stage of the artist is at. Its why people say the Weeknd and Amy Winehouse (my she rest in peace) they were sad. A more shocking example would YNW Melly how confessed to murder in his song “Murder on my Mind.” The police will not separate him as an artist from his music if anything it’s key evidence.

  21. t says:

    Yes, the person should be separated from their art. A person’s talent cannot go unacknowledged despite the decisions they chose to make. Many people adored Whitney Houston. She abused drugs. Many people loved R Kelly’s music. He raped underaged girls. Many people were fans of OJ Simpson. He went on trial for murder. The individuals above contributed to the music industry as well as the sports industry. They made terrible life choices, but they will also be known for good aspects as well.

  22. William Sutton says:

    I think people make mistakes, no one is and no one ever will be perfect. Now this fact does not excuse people from the consequences that their actions should result in. People should be held to standards and bad actions should be punished. But the art that is created should not be held to the same up turned nose that the mere mention of some these people ensue. The child should not be punished for the sins of the father and an artists art should not be belittled just because of their of actions (unless the art is also disgusting then it should be destroyed 😉 )

  23. Sophie Tipton says:

    All art should be divided from its creator. We don’t blame Hitler’s parents for giving birth to him, do we? This can go for a lot of other people, shows, and creations. Just because a person is bad doesn’t mean it should be brought out on their works. Although some works might get that light brought onto them when things get out, the creator made the work, the work didn’t make the creator. That may be hard to interpret in this sense of the given movies as a movie like Shakespeare in Love could get a little raunchy, but it goes to say that all the creator did was affect the work and its details, the film didn’t make the person do the dirty with others, and it shouldn’t be looked at that way. It’s almost like if we found out the woman in the Mona Lisa was a very young prostitute that da Vinci was using for purposes other than painting (using a different type of paintbrush elsewhere if you get my point) that may change people’s views on da Vinci as a person, but it would most likely not stop the flock of thousands upon thousands of people who see the Mona Lisa each day. In the end, the artist may be responsible for their work, but they aren’t completely tied to it. Their actions should not affect the creation. Let art be art, creator aside.

  24. Linda Arnoldus says:

    I see both sides of the argument. I appreciate art in all forms, and can appreciate good art from bad people. However, I know that it is impossible to separate art from the artist. Art starts and ends with an idea from the artist’s head. That being said, I don’t listen to Chris Brown’s music because he beat Rihanna. Maybe a person who separates music from the artist could, but I don’t. In the case of the films, I will always appreciate good films from bad directors, but knowing the director’s story always influences my experience.

  25. T says:

    I don’t think an artist’s work should be judged based on his personality. Sure, he might suck and be a terrible person, but he still produces amazing work. While I don’t think this bad behavior should be tolerated, I definitely don’t think his work should be discredited. If we discredited every invention or work that was done by a “bad” person, there would literally be almost nothing in our society because everyone has messed up and made mistakes. It’s the course of human nature to screw up at some point in your life. Granted, some screw up more than others and actually are bad people, but this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be recognized in some positive manner, especially if the work is good.

  26. Catherine Li says:

    I believe an artist’s work can be respected while the artist can’t. There’s no denying that terrible people have created wonderful movies, art, and such, but there is a certain point where the things a person chooses to do should affect their professional career. Individuals like Harvey Weinstein don’t deserve to continue making movies anymore because of the awful things they have done, and I understand anyone who isn’t comfortable in endorsing his productions. However, I also understand people who respect his works and continue to cherish them without respecting him as a person. The line is blurry for me in that way, but as of respecting them as a person, it is a definite no. These people have done terrible things that should never be acceptable in society, and they should be forced to accept the consequences.

  27. Emma Jones says:

    Art can be separated from the artist, but people like Harvey Weinstein should not be allowed to continue to make art. They should not be able to benefit from their art monetarily or in any other way. It is also true that their art is now tainted for some people. It changes the experience for some people, especially when a person knows how those actors probably had to get those roles in the case of Harvey Weinstein. Overall, I think whether or not the art should be separated from the artist is ultimately the decision of the person viewing the art as long as the artist no longer is benefiting from their work in any way.

  28. Bubba says:

    No one is perfect in society. Even if they express tremendous talent, they would still leave skepticism to viewers and fans. People say that art usually express its creator. Polanski’s art being one of the best films does not mean he is one of the best and ideal artists. Even though he has talent, he is separate from his art based on how he behaved. Therefore, art and the artist are not to be thought of in the same boat. Yes, the artist created the art, but that does not mean that the adjectives describing the art can be used respectively to describe the artists. Art may express how the artists feel, but will not express the artists’ morality. Therefore, art and the artists should be differentiated.

  29. M says:

    artists should be separated from their art; however, they should not be allowed to benefit from that art. If Ignition is going to be played on a commercial, the fee associated with using that song should either be waived or donated directly to a battered women’s shelter. I can appreciate a bopping song or movie or painting or whatever without thinking highly of the person who did created it.

  30. C says:

    One’s ability to make art does not reflect their human morals (or lack there of). I believe in separating the art from the artists in MOST situations. I also believe that there is a difference between emotional/mental support and monetary support. I will not spend money on one’s art if they are involved in something I highly disapprove of. If the artist is simply doing drugs, even though that is something I would not personally do, I will still support them. In Harvey Weinstein’s case, if I know something has his name on it, I will not give it my money. It is dependent on the situation.

  31. TM says:

    Yes, the artist and the art can be separated. Artists who have committed misdemeanors maybe once or twice should not have their art be judged by their mistakes. However, life-ruining crimes, such as sexual assault and murder, should not go unnoticed. Yes, these artists could make the best music or films, but their pasts “mistakes” should not go unpunished. These artists should not benefit from their art, but amazing things are sometimes born from terrible circumstances or, in this case, people. The biggest thing consumers can do is hold the artists accountable for his or her actions without devaluing the art.

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