Michael Jackson’s art matters. It matters not because of any sociopolitical significance, although many of his songs bear uplifting messages. It matters not for its implications about race in America. It matters because of the simple fact that it is, in every sense, the gift revealed.
A generation ago, young people read Lewis Hyde’s The Gift to understand how to live meaningful lives by cultivating within themselves the ability to receive art: “An essential portion of any artist’s labor is not creation so much as invocation. Part of the work cannot be made, it must be received; and we cannot have this gift except, perhaps, by supplication, by courting, by creating within ourselves that ‘begging bowl’ to which the gift is drawn.”
You can cast away Picasso because Hannah Gadsby told you he was cruel to women. But can you cast away Guernica? Art isn’t something mere; it doesn’t exist as the moral bona fides of the person who made it. That person is a supernumerary. Separate yourself from any art—even popular art; even art created simply as entertainment—and you separate yourself from all of it.