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comment by Odder
Odder  ·  68 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Is It Time Gauguin Got Canceled?

I'm sure I'm not capable of articulating what the value of art is, but I can be certain without reading past the headline that the New York Times doesn't understand it. Cancelling art made by someone who is still alive is practical and makes sense - by not consuming a person's art, we further ostracize them beyond. If we're going to cancel any art that's been made by a dead person though, what we're actually saying is that art that doesn't further what we consider to be social progress should all be destroyed. There are plenty of people who agree with that idea, and I'm not sure I'll be able to dissuade them, but I will say that this is is the type of conclusion made by people who think that the value in National Parks is that they give middle class families a nice place to go on vacation.

It might be news to some people that Gauguin was a racist pedophile, but it shouldn't be news to anyone that Gauguin's paintings tell you more about Gauguin then they do about the subjects he drew. You don't even need to know anything about Gauguin to be able to tell that, though if you know anything you know that history doesn't really set him up to be the most empathetic artist toward his subjects. It would be hard to look at his art the same way as before now knowing that he was sexually attracted to his subjects, that his subjects were underage, and that he thought of them as savages - even if you assumed some of that was probably true beforehand. But as far as I can tell - no one is asking that - it's still useful to understand the context behind art, it just isn't necessary to only keep art that we agree with.

Admittedly we don't actually need Gauguin either. We also don't need other pedophiles like Byron or Poe, either. We could even go so far as "cancelling" all art made by anyone born before 1900 if we wanted to make sure we weren't supporting anyone who was racist or a pedophile. That all seems a bit too drastic, though. If there is value in art, it seems like whatever value doesn't expire just because our society no longer agrees with the morals of the person who created it.