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  1. #11
    jovo's Avatar
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    By now it must be decades ago that the Israel Philharmonic had to decide whether or not to play the music of Wagner, a rabid anti-semite whose work was admired and exploited by the Third Reich. They came to the conclusion that the music transcended the politics of its composer and the appropriation of the Nazis. IIRC it was by no means a unanimous decision either.

    Today, Wagner isn't here to strut, nor are Nazis (I'm sure there must be some hiding in closets here and there...the racist mentality certainly still exists) openly able to inflate their babble with operatic puffery. Has time allowed Wagner's music to belong to everyman on its merits alone? Perhaps, but I doubt it.
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  2. #12
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera View Post
    ...

    On a different level, what about Frank Lloyd Wright? Obviously, a lot of people felt his antics to be tolerable, but would you have accepted his telling you what furniture you could or couldn't have in your house, where to put your paintings, and what colors you could or couldn't paint the house? He was known to re-visit houses he designed, and re-arrange the furniture, telling the owners they weren't living properly in HIS house!
    I think that once you had heard pronouncements of his such as "If the roof doesn't leak, the building isn't modern enough!", you would be able to figure out where he was coming from without too much trouble!

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    David

  3. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera View Post

    It poses an interesting historical question, though. What about someone like Van Gogh? Today, his paintings are some of the most valuable on the planet. But if you were living in Paris in 1889, would you have bought one of his paintings from him? Considering that he suffered from essentially (by modern standards) untreated mental illness, and was a challenge to be around even for his brother, would you have put up with his behavior?
    He only sold one painting in his lifetime, so I guess the answer historically is "no". In his case I would think that was more to do with his style of painting than anything (although he probably wasn't his best ambassador). There again, his style of painting does fundamentally reflect the person he was - you can't separate the two...Now we appreciate the elemental and yet quite pure nature of his work, which at the time probably seen as just scary and odd, and definitely not "proper" art.

    You can't separate artists from their work. Sometimes their belief systems are more obvious than others, sometimes they express more universal values. I guess for me it would come down to which of these seemed most obvious - if I didn't know more about the artist. If I knew the artist had truly objectionable values, I wouldn't buy a work of art from them, because a connection with the artist, as well as the work, is important for me (not that I buy art or photographs to any degree).

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera View Post
    It poses an interesting historical question, though. What about someone like Van Gogh? Today, his paintings are some of the most valuable on the planet. But if you were living in Paris in 1889, would you have bought one of his paintings from him? Considering that he suffered from essentially (by modern standards) untreated mental illness, and was a challenge to be around even for his brother, would you have put up with his behavior?

    On a different level, what about Frank Lloyd Wright? Obviously, a lot of people felt his antics to be tolerable, but would you have accepted his telling you what furniture you could or couldn't have in your house, where to put your paintings, and what colors you could or couldn't paint the house? He was known to re-visit houses he designed, and re-arrange the furniture, telling the owners they weren't living properly in HIS house!
    I see what you are getting at with these hypo questions.... but really when you distill it all down its almost irrelevant. I studied architecture in school and know my fair share, or at least a little, about FLW and architectural history... and this is a moot point, in my opinion. It didnt take long for the general public to become informed of the artistic temperment of F L Wright. No one hired and/or commissioned Wright for the task of designing and constructing a house that would eventually be "theirs" (as in, it would actually be owned by the owner). He was hired for his artist nature, for his conceptualization and for his "statements". Not for the functionality of his work.... I mean take as a prime example Johnson Wax HQ building, the people who work in his gorgeously designed and executed "Great Room" just plain hated working in that room... it was loud, chaotic, and anti-productive, or the fact that fallingwater is indeed FALLING.
    In my opinion he was an architect hired to make an artistic and historical statement and did so eloquently and with mastery.
    the general public wouldnt want to work at the Wax HQ, nor would the general public want to live/own fallingwater.
    In short, and to return to your original question, the people who hired him ARE the exact people who should have hired him, and when they were the wrong people is when the turmoil between "owner" and "designer" ensued. So hypothesizing about whether "we" would want him to tell us where to put furniture, what colors, etc etc isnt really relevant, in my opinion.


    and to return to your original post Scott.... for me personally, for the living artists, I personally will never spend my money on artwork created by someone that I do not care deeply for. And for that matter, more than likely I wouldnt spend money on artwork created by a dead artists unless I indirectly "care" for them. IE, if I could afford it, I would own work created by Weston and/or Strand, mainly because I have read extensively about them and through this reading I have gained respect and knowledge about them as individuals and artists, in short, I've grown to posthumously "care" for them.

  5. #15
    BradS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera View Post
    At what point do you say that an artist's personal beliefs/behavior/etc become sufficiently obnoxious that you refuse to buy their artwork?
    Although I understand completely what you are asking, the question is some how incongruous to me. Can we really so cleanly separate art from artist? Where is the dividing line? Where does the person end and the work begin? Art worth buying is an outpouring of the artist's soul. It is a statement of what is right or what is terribly wrong in life or in the world. Anything less is just so much....commercial crap.



    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera View Post
    Do you make a distinction between politics and personal behavior?
    Hmm, yes. Definitely. Where such a distinction exists in the individual. There is a further distinction between the person and the message or, at least there can be. And there is a subtlty there that I think I could go on about for pages.

    Finally, I think it is an important and intersting question that you have posed Scott. However, I also don't think it is worth loosing too much sleep over...as an artist...and I'm not entirely clear whether you're asking this as a buyer of art or as a producer of art. I don't think an artist should concern himself with this at all. If he has something to say, he should say it with all his might and not concern himself at all with whether...his politics, or personal conduct is commercially viable at this particulat moment in time and under the currently reigning political forces. There are lots of people out there in the world. Not all of them fell out of the current politically correct mold.

  6. #16
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    Brad- I was more asking it from the consumer's perspective than the artist's perspective. I fully expect as an artist to give expression to my personal beliefs/feelings/politics/identity/what-have-you, and I'm not going to censor that to fit some marketing proposal. If someone doesn't buy it because they disagree with the ideas/sentiments in the image, that's fine with me, as I'd rather not have my images in the hands of someone who is only buying it for cynical reasons (percieved investment value, etc). There was a contretemps kicked up in another thread here that spurred this line of inquiry, as people responding to that posting were saying something rather different than the responses I'm getting here, which I find interesting.

    I was trying to identify IF people would refuse to purchase a piece of artwork that devoid of context they found aesthetically pleasing, when placed in the context of the living artist and his/her opinions/behavior. Also, WHAT was the threshold for saying, "No, I won't buy this work now, even though I like it".

  7. #17
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    I think you have to distinguish between the artist-idiot and the salesman-idiot, even if they are the same person. If the salesman is an idiot, I'm not going to bother making any transaction, unless there's something really worthwhile in the artwork that will offset the idiocy.

    On the other hand, the question of the artist-idiot is a more problematic one.

    Louis-Ferdinand Céline, for instance, has written absolutely condemnable things about Jews before WWII, and he is still strongly criticized for doing so. But he also wrote "Voyage au bout de la nuit" which is an immense masterpiece of anti-war literature that is widely read, appreciated, and taught in schools. It's much harder to take a stance because he seemed to contradict himself between these works.

    Publishing "Bagatelles pour un massacre" (Céline's antisemite pamphlets) does not carry the same value as publishing the "Voyage." Indeed, you will find the latter before you ever find a copy of the former.

    So I don't know: should we make judgements work by work, or on the basis of an overall oeuvre? And what if the oeuvre itself is incoherent?

    There's also the question of buying vs. using the work. If you pardon the rather gruesome comparison, buying Mein Kampf does not mean the same thing if you're a historical researcher that uses it as document than if you're a skinhead kid that actually put into action what it says. Both people have bought the work, but they have used it in different ways that carry different ethical considerations.
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  8. #18
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mhv View Post
    I think you have to distinguish between the artist-idiot and the salesman-idiot, even if they are the same person. If the salesman is an idiot, I'm not going to bother making any transaction, unless there's something really worthwhile in the artwork that will offset the idiocy.
    THAT's the distinction I'm interested in probing. What is that limit? is it always case-by-case, even within the oeuvre of a single artist? (the rest of your post seems to indicate yes, as the later cases of Celine and Hitler point out). Is there ever an absolute threshold, or a tipping point? How deep of a principle do you set? To take another contemporary example, Jews who won't buy German luxury cars. For some Jews, buying a Mercedes or BMW is tantamount to hiring your own murderer, even though they themselves are living sixty plus years after the events, and the companies themselves are no longer the same companies that supplied war materiel to the Third Reich. Some folks would consider that reaction (don't buy the car) to be stubborn and overly judgemental. Others would say that it is a laudable stand on principle.

    So when do you draw the line, how long do you keep it drawn, and what for?

  9. #19
    BradS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera View Post
    Brad- I was more asking it from the consumer's perspective than the artist's perspective. I fully expect as an artist to give expression to my personal beliefs/feelings/politics/identity/what-have-you, and I'm not going to censor that to fit some marketing proposal. If someone doesn't buy it because they disagree with the ideas/sentiments in the image, that's fine with me, as I'd rather not have my images in the hands of someone who is only buying it for cynical reasons (percieved investment value, etc). There was a contretemps kicked up in another thread here that spurred this line of inquiry, as people responding to that posting were saying something rather different than the responses I'm getting here, which I find interesting.

    I was trying to identify IF people would refuse to purchase a piece of artwork that devoid of context they found aesthetically pleasing, when placed in the context of the living artist and his/her opinions/behavior. Also, WHAT was the threshold for saying, "No, I won't buy this work now, even though I like it".
    --- "refuse" ---
    For me, this makes the question purely hypothetical. Only because, I don't think that, for me, the actual reality of purchasing art has ever been so...what is the word?....cerebral? I'll simply observe that when I have laid out money to buy art, I don't ever remember thinking about it that much.

    However, I have admired much art and walked away without even thinking about making a purchase. Perhaps, subconsciously becasue I was not acquainted with the person. I have also walked away from a piece that I liked very much but when I spoke to the artist, was repulsed. This demonstrates my point. I don't think I "refused". I don't think I thought about it that much. But, I certainly did not buy or even so much as look at any of the rest of his work.

    So, I guess what I am trying to say is that in the many, many instances when I have not bought, when I have failed to buy a piece that I liked, the decision was made subconsciously - long before I could explicitly refuse to buy. And, I do believe that a lack of a personal connection with the artist may have been a significant factor in that subconscious decision making process.

  10. #20

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    If I was in love with a Leni Riefenstahl photograph and had to have it, I still wouldn't hang it in my house. I'd keep it in a box with the cheap pornography. I would find it creepy, eccentric and distasteful at best to see one up in someone's dining room.

    I would never buy art from someone (an artist) I knew with whom I had bad associations. But it would take a lot more for me to learn a distaste for someone I'd never met, or at least didn't often have to interact with. I can forgive a lot in strangers and dead people.

    I'm generally against idealogical stands. By the way, it's not just luxury cars. VW is considered one of the worst, and it was an economy car until recently. Still holding grudges against the Germans is a prejudice I'm happy to allow in old people, but it's not pretty in the young.

    Having a problem with a dealer is something else altogether.

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