I wrote this in July, but was hesitant to post it as it talks about subjects that carry a lot of emotion. It was in response to a radio programme I listened to, that attempted to answer the question, “Is art done by evil people, inherently evil?
It has become a topic of conversation over the last few weeks since Rolf Harris was found guilty of sexually assaulting some children in the past. Here in Western Australia, we have loved Rolf for years (me included- does anyone remember his television show and his amazing paintings?). Our populace is almost in mourning that our immensely talented and successful personality has been revealed as a sexual predator. He came from a place that revered him and gave him the keys to the town, they have now been revoked and there are moves to erase his presence from any public place which has his signature. His portrait of the Queen is (I have read) being removed from public view.
My question is this; does the artist being evil, mean that the artwork and every good thing he/she has done (and Rolf has done a lot of charitable works) have to be negated?
There are a few famous people whose reputations have been shot down in flames for being paedophiles, the most notorious recently being English entertainer Jimmy Saville (deceased). The revelations about him have been truly horrifying and far-reaching, Gary Glitter (aka Paul Gadd) was imprisoned in Vietnam (or was it Cambodia) for sexual predation of children and is reviled wherever he goes, but what is it that separates these awful men from the likes of Roman Polanski and Bill Wyman, who had “dealings” with underage girls and yet still enjoy public appreciation of their work?
I don’t think Gary Glitter is known for charitable works, but my understanding is that Jimmy Saville raised millions of pound for charity, all the while intimidating, grooming and interfering with children as a sideline.
I am not an apologist for paedophiles, let’s get that straight. I am disgusted by them and find their “antics” beyond comprehension.
My question remains however, if someone evil creates a thing of beauty, is that thing also evil?
Bryan Ferry issued a public apology for his comments in appreciation of the work of Leni Riefenstahl and Albert Speer (Nazi propaganda film maker and architect respectively), but he was not commenting on them being Nazis; as an artist, he was looking at the aesthetics of their work. The Public were outraged and condemned his comment, from which he quickly back pedalled. Anyone who has been to Germany and seen the work of Speer, cannot help but be favourably impressed, in itself- the work is not evil. Riefenstahl made propaganda films for the Nazi Party, but her camerawork is often stunning.
I just found this article http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/22/opinion/global-agenda-magazine-good-art-bad-people.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 which presents the topic in a very balanced way, I encourage you to read it and have a think 🙂