Gauguin: The question of art and morality today

Book tickets here

The National Gallery in collaboration with The Centre for Philosophy and Visual Arts at King’s College London, discuss whether we can still love the work of celebrated artists despite their immoral behaviour

Friday, 11 October 2019

6.30 – 8 pm

Sainsbury Wing Theatre


Gauguin’s legacy as a painter is undeniable, but his lifestyle presents a challenge to our appreciation of his greatness. To some, he was a bohemian renegade, who broke free from Europe’s bourgeois shackles in his quest for creative liberation in the South Seas. To others, he abused the myth of the noble savage, abandoning his family to satisfy his exotic fantasies, while boosting the market for his art back home.

In the wake of recent scandals, and movements such as #MeToo and #StayWoke gaining significant attention, once-admired artists, writers, actors and filmmakers have been disgraced. Can we still love the work of artists whose behaviour we loathe? Is it ever really possible for objects of beauty not to be spoiled by the dirty hands that made them? Or could Gauguin’s artistic achievements even justify what he did?

This discussion poses questions about how we can (and if we should) make such moral judgements, inviting us to reflect on our relationship to art and consider what we take to be its purpose or responsibilities. 

Speakers include Shahidha Bari, Daniel Callcut, Sacha Golob and Janet Marstine.Image: Detail from Paul Gauguin, ‘Self-Portrait’, 1885 © Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas (AP 1997.03)

Book tickets here

Shahidha Bari

Shahidha Bari is a writer, academic and broadcaster. She is a Fellow of the Forum for Philosophy at the London School of Economics. Bari appears regularly on BBC Radio 3’s Arts and Ideas programme, ‘Free Thinking’, and is an occasional presenter of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Front Row’. Bari is currently Professor of Fashion Cultures and Histories at the London College of Fashion and is the author of ‘Dressed: The Secret Life of Clothes’.

Daniel Callcut

Daniel Callcut is a freelance writer and philosopher with a wide interest in the arts. He writes for ‘Prospect’ magazine, ‘Aeon’, and ‘Arts Professional’. Cambridge University Press and Routledge have published Callcut’s academic work and he is the editor of ‘Reading Bernard Williams’, an extensive collection of essays on one of the great philosophers of his generation.

Sacha Golob

Sacha Golob is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King’s College London. He is the Director of the Centre for Philosophy and Visual Arts and the Associate Editor of the British Journal for the History of Philosophy. Golob has published extensively on French and German Philosophy and the Philosophy of Art. His current research looks at contemporary conceptions of degeneration, transformation and virtue.

Janet Marstine

Janet Marstine is Honorary (Retired) Associate Professor, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester. She writes on diverse aspects of museum ethics from codes of practice to diversity initiatives and artists’ interventions as drivers for ethical change. She is author of ‘Critical Practice: Artists, museums, ethics’ (Routledge 2017), among other titles, and co-editor, with Svetlana Mintcheva, of the forthcoming volume ‘Curating Under Pressure: International perspectives on negotiating conflict and upholding integrity’.