In Brief

Reclaiming the Art We Love from Artists We Despise

In the newest segment of Billy on the Street, a contestant struggles to save the cultural contributions of disgraced artists.

(screenshot by the author)
(screenshot by the author)

Everyone has at least one: an artist who you know is probably a very bad person, but whose work you just can’t resist. Maybe you’re hooked on her durational performance experiences in spite of those terrible things she said about Aboriginal Australians. Maybe you kept watching the show that made his career even after his public outburst of racist hatred. Maybe you were won over by her modern yet comfortable interior design aesthetic even though you knew she’d been convicted of insider trading. Maybe you fell for his work long before you knew he’d been accused of rape.

Or, maybe you finally gave up on his clunky paintings and sculptures after he said those insanely sexist things about women artists. Maybe you were pushed over the edge and disavowed the seemingly sarcastic violence of his ceramic sculptures when it turned out he actually is a white nationalist. How we negotiate the balance between swearing off bad people and enjoying the art they make is an internal struggle we all face, and one that comedian Billy Eichner externalizes delightfully in the newest installment of his show Billy on the Street.

The segment “Can You Separate The Art From the Artist?” turns the tensions between the public scandals and cultural contributions of Shia LaBeouf, Bill Cosby, Michael Richards, and Mel Gibson into an obstacle course game show. If only the solution in real life were so simple!

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