Saturday, 19 January 2013

Galliano's New Gig

Galliano at the end of a Dior show (source)

Yesterday the news emerged that disgraced designer John Galliano has been offered a temporary residency at Oscar de la Renta. Following his drunken racist outburst and subsequent firing from Dior, it may come as a surprise to many that Galliano is being given a second chance in the industry.

What do I think? I think it's risky. But I think that the man's talents are too great to give up on completely. It introduces an interesting and old question: is it possible to separate the behaviour of an artist from the value of their art?

When it was revealed that Chris Brown had become violent to his girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, several radio stations put an immediate ban on playing his music. Those who were already fans of his music were faced with a dilemma: it wasn't their fault that they enjoyed the work he produced, but how could they now listen to it without being seen to condone domestic violence? Much the same problem was faced by those who wore Galliano. Nothing had changed about the clothes, they still held the same appeal of escapism in flamboyant design, yet they were now associated with a man who had been filmed proclaiming his love for Hitler.

In Chris Brown's case, he now seems to have been given a second chance by everyone from the radio to Rihanna herself. Is this because he is believed to be reformed? Or is it because the world can recognise that someone should not be prevented from producing art on account of a mistake they have made which is unrelated to their work? I think it's a mixture of both in Brown's case, but in some cases it can be a tough decision: should you ignore art because you dislike the artist?

Keats once claimed in a letter to Richard Woodhouse that "A Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence; because he has no Identity - he is continually in for - and filling some other Body". If I am interpreting his meaning correctly, this means that an artist has no identity but his art. Everything that he is goes into the production of it. Depending on how you look at it, this could mean that someone's personality is inseparable from their work, or it could mean that their personality is immaterial; their art is all that counts. Basically, Galliano's work could be tainted forever by his reputation as a racist, or his mistakes could be eclipsed by the quality of his designs, rendering the past unimportant.

The Dior Midnight Poison dress on a poster at La Musee et Jardin Christian Dior
Some people will never be able to forgive him, but personally I wish John Galliano the best of luck in his future endeavours. As someone who has seen several of his best designs for Dior up close during my visits to the Musee et Jardin Christian Dior and the Rene Gruau exhibition, I know that we can expect great things to come.


Becky said...

I think a drunken (and supposedly drugged) nonsensical rant is very different to someone repeatedly and viciously beating someone.

It was ill-advised of him but I genuinely believe that he was just trying to cause drama, rather than actually being anti-semitic, and I wish him luck.

I'm very excited to see his return.


Unknown said...

I love this post, it is a really interesting question. I personally think that to associate an artist and their
misgivings with their art isn't right, because art is something through which people can interpret their own ideas and feelings, and I feel it is this attribute in art (the relationship it has with its audience) that is the most important.
I do however think this can be questioned when the supporting of art offers profit to someone such as Chris Brown. He makes a lot of money from people's support of his work. I don't blame anyone for doing so however because you really can't help what you like, despite who made it. I personally wouldn't buy any of Chris Browns music but that's probably because I wasn't the biggest fan of it to begin with, and now it just has a somewhat tainted feeling to it for me. But you never know what the future holds, I could like a song he makes at some point...

I am excited however to see Galliano's new work, because he is amazingly talented at what he does.

Anyway essay over :) and once again, I love this post!


ReluctantFemme said...

Whether you can ever really separate the art and the artist is a question I don't think I will personally ever be able to answer. When the Roman Polanski situation blew up, I was furious at all the people relentlessly defending him. But there are other instances where I have defended actions by other artists that could be considered just as heinous.
In this case, I see Galliano's actions as being very similar to those that got Lars Von Trier banned from Cannes - they both said stupid things, because they have a fucking weird sense of humor and they thought they were being funny and edgy, when they were just being offensive. It's not good, or admirable, but it's not drugging and raping a child either. I say give him a chance to pull his head out of his arse and give us some more incredible dresses.

Pardon My Fashion said...

Galliano is an artist. And a VERY flamboyant and egotistical one at that. I think the drunken rant was probably just a drunken rant to shock people...same idea with his shows, right?! Always over the top, this guy. But like you say his talent cannot be ignored. He is AMAZING. I for one have already forgotten whatever drama he had and I can't wait to see what he does at ODLR.

Great post!

Devon - InformedStyle said...

Enjoyed reading your thoughts on this - I think that each person's reaction to a situation like this will be very different.
My appreciation for Galliano and his work hasn't diminished as a result of his outburst - but I've stopped listening to Chris Brown and still can't understand the level of forgiveness he's been shown.
I think that the Galliano situation could be compared to that of Coco Chanel - who is now known to have been a Nazi collaborator during WWII. Has that evidence destroyed her legacy or status in fashion? Hardly. Her work stands on its own, despite dis-tasteful political/personal views.


Girlscout said...

I guess he will always be a star no matter what. People say and do things that are outrageous all the time but the talent always remains...