Statues and Art?? Should we destroy art because of the immorality or decadence of the artist??

Yesterday somebody damaged the statue produced by Eric Gill on the front of the BBC building.

It appears that the artwork was attacked because of Eric Gill’s sexual deviation (as revealed in his diaries). He committed incest with his daughters and sexually abused the family dog.

I do not think many people would defend the actions of this artist. Sexual abuse is not to be condoned. But those that invalidate the art he produced??

It seems that we are on a slippery slope here. Many artists have lived abhorrent lives while producing outstanding art and music.

Leadbelly was a committed murderer and rapist.

Picasso was a misogynist.

Dali supported Hitler and fascism.

Gaugin was a paedophile.

Caravaggio was a murderer.

The list could go on and on and on.. ……

Does this mean we have to analyse the lives of every artist, musician and writer for abhorrent behaviour? Should we destroy their work if we find unpleasant stuff?

Would we all agree on what was abhorrent?

It seems to me that all those statues of slavers, exploiters, profiteers, warmongers and politicians should be removed!! They represent repugnant values. But destroy them?? I think not. I’d put them in museums.

Destroying art feels like burning books to me!!

Surely we should separate the art from the artist? Surely we can use the art as a focus to discuss the views and actions of the artists?

2 thoughts on “Statues and Art?? Should we destroy art because of the immorality or decadence of the artist??

  1. Opher – I think it very important that art in the landscape should accurately reflect widespread public sentiment and feeling at any given time in history. Culture is fluid, works of art should reflect and celebrate such changing perception. Those who commission public works celebrating individuals would do well to accurately gauge public opinion first.

    Statues that have now been removed – and any others still causing offence – should be placed in a museum where individuals have a clear choice whether to be exposed to the artwork or not.

    As for separation of art and artist: what constitutes a work of art, how do we define it – a painting, a building, a wondrous piece of modern engineering? How far down the rabbit hole do we go? As a writer of books, would you like to have your life/character forensically investigated and then used to inform discussion of your work?


    1. I agree with you Dewin. This putting up of statues needs thought and sensitivity. We have far too many Establishment figures – Kings, Queens, Statemen, Politicians, Generals, Wealthy Merchants – not enough poets, writers, dancers, artists and creators.
      By all means put the statues in museums with a pen picture of what they were! They’re history – right or wrong.
      It’s all art.
      As a writer I think it’s valid for people to look at my life and attitudes and see how that is reflected in my writing. Some will like it; some will hate it and think I should be locked up – but the writing stands on its own. Books shouldn’t be burnt. I want to read Mein Kampf and see what made the fascist tick.

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