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The best exhibition of 2019: & apos; Balthus & apos ;, at Thyssen-Bornemisza


At the end of 2017 it became clear that something was changing in the field of values. Two young people, one of 26 and the other of 30 years, shocked to discover that in the rooms

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At the end of 2017 it became clear that something was changing in the field of values. Two young men, one of 26 and the other of 30, were shocked to discover that in the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of New York hung a painting by Balthus, Teresa dreaming , undertook a virtual campaign to force the museum to remove the painting or, as At least, to warn the public that its dubious content could be offensive. I insist, it was two young people who found the Balthus painting incorrect, two millennials educated in a secular and plural society, who, before a work that defied their moral schemes, asked, if not censorship, at least one phrase that put distance between them and that degraded context in which such a sexist picture could be conceived.

Thérèse dreaming, painted by Balthus in 1938.MET

Fourteen months after this scandal broke out, Teresa dreaming left her New York home and arrived in Madrid to be exhibited in the rooms of the National Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza. He did not come alone. He was accompanied by another 46 paintings, a remarkable sample of the different stages of Balthus, of his obsessions, of his plastic challenges and yes, of course, of his enormous power to unsettle the viewer with images of a bewitching ambiguity. Everything was predisposed to the scandal. "Balthus brings controversy to Madrid," "The subtle and controversial teenagers of Balthus," the media said. The brawl seemed inevitable, and yet the exposure passed normally. The litter of moralism and indignation that arises in the United States when the works of the past confront the rigor of contemporary political correctness, was not reproduced in Spain. You have to be happy about it.

For many reasons, but especially one, and that is that moral panic prevents us from understanding the art that is born of free impulse, not slogans or panfletary slogans. And Balthus is the example par excellence of free artist, oblivious to any convention, even those of the art of his own time. In the 30s, when the avant-garde opted for expression and geometry, two abstract tendencies, he remained faithful to figurative painting. Art was dehumanized and Balthus' paintings were filled with humanity. That was what disturbed: the way he managed to capture human, terribly human moments of transit. Especially one, the uncertain moment in which the candor and sexual awakening overlap, the innocence of the childlike reverie and the sensuality of the mature woman , the struggle between purity and the conscience of the body itself.

Balthus immortalized that instant. He ripped it out of time so we could contemplate it. That is his grace, that is his merit: to produce a climate of vagueness in which it is difficult for us to enjoy his art without feeling uncomfortable. Unlike art that fights against climate change or in favor of migrants, Balthus puts the viewer in a mess. His paintings are not morally incontestable. In them the border between good and evil ceases to be clear; They reveal that pleasure and virtue are not always compatible. And the most serious, no one can take a selfie in front of Teresa dreaming with the certainty that it will not contradict the biempensante expectations of his followers in the networks. Balthus does not offer these benefits: Balthus is not a safe space.

Thérèse, 1938, by Balthus.MET

Now, it is true that we are going through a period of uncertainty . The climatic urgency and the great migrations are not fictions, and it is normal for these challenges to reconfigure the moral horizon of the time. But when the moral rigor reaches the field of culture and begins to talk about censorship, trigger warnings, signs and warnings, we sink into swampy areas. It is one thing to ask the consumer to privilege green or solidarity products, and another to move art that does not respond to the good cause of the moment. If it is usual for culture to challenge the moral parameters of the present, today we are witnessing the triumph of morality over culture . It is not the first time it happens. In the 1930s, that supremacy of the cause over art generated social realism.

Although to say that we are facing a resurgence of social realism is not entirely accurate. I would say, rather, that it is a strange form of moral hyperrealism, or better, an exaggeration of morality in art whose most obvious purpose is that whoever consumes, sponsors and rewards it is shown to society as a good person and virtuous. If a few years ago it became fashionable to take pictures of food dishes, a practice that ended up being called food porn, today what is in fashion is moral porn: the impure display of goodism. Good art for good people. But, as in all forms of pornography, both moaning and crying end up revealing falsehood and artifice. Wonderful that moral pornography forces capitalism to become green and clean, but that it does not take anyone's pleasure from contemplating a work by Balthus. Neopuritan, neopuritanas, neopuritanes: How dare you .

Expert votes


1. Anfora, grotesque, frame, dummy (Museo Patio Herreriano de Valladolind), by Antonio Ballester.

2. All concerts, every night, everything empty (CA2M Museum of Móstoles), by Ana Laura Aláez.

3. The longest trip (Archivo de Indias, Sevilla).

4. Genealogies of the Art Foundation (Juan March Foundation). Curator: Manuel Fontán del Junco.

5. V (Enrich Erhardt Gallery of Madrid.), By Julia Spínola.


1. Cutting-edge networks. Amauta and Latin America (Reina Sofía Museum).

2. Balthus (Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum)

3. In real life (Tate Modern, London), by Olafur Eliasson.

4. Nasca. Looking for footprints in the desert (Fundación Telefónica).

5. Dentures. A rapist in your way (Pubic space several cities of the world).


1. Genealogies of art, or the history of art as visual art (Fundación Juan March). Curator: Manuel Fontán del Junco,

2. Art on Display. Forms of expor 1949-69 (Museu Gulbenkian, Lisbon). Commissioners: Penelope Curtis and Dirk van den Heuvel,

3. 1989. The end of the 20th century , I (VAM, Valencia). Commissioners: Sandra Moros and Sergio Rubira,

4. Reading, giving rise (Reina Sofía Museum), by Rogelio López Cuenca.

5. The mud of the revolution (CA2M, Móstoles), by Paloma Polo.


1. Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future (Guggenheim NY).

2. Balthus (Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum).

3. Bacon in toutes lettres (Center Georges Pompidou, Paris).

4. Soul: Mediums and visionaries (Es Baluard-Museu d'Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma).

5. Feminisms! (Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona).

According to the criteria of The Trust Project

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Source: elmuldo

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