|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|