The subtle and controversial teenagers of Balthus | Culture

In 1996 the Reina Sofia Museum He dedicated an anthology to Balthazar Klossowski, known worldwide as Balthus. There he could see an important selection of his adolescent girls reclining or sitting in suggestive attitude without anyone being shocked. 22 years later, that same group of lolitas lands again in Madrid in an environment polluted by the politically correct - 11,000 signatures requested in 2017 the withdrawal of the work Thérèse dreaming of a show at the New York Metropolitan - and a cultural conservatism capable of dirtying the most innocent looks. The public will have the opportunity to speak at the exhibition Balthus, that can be seen in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum from this Tuesday until next May 26. It is a retrospective of his essential work (47 paintings), which covers his entire career. Co-produced with the Beyeler Foundation of Basel (Switzerland), where it has been exhibited until the month of January of this year, it is sponsored by the Community of Madrid.

Setsuko Ideta, widow of the painter, yesterday was very happy for the exhibition, but a little tired of answering again and again to the controversy about the nudes. "I do not care. You have to talk about Art and not pay attention to that kind of comments. I am afraid that eroticism and desire worry sickly in some communities. "

At the Basel exhibition, viewers were asked about the sensations experienced when contemplating these paintings and if they believed there were grounds for censorship. In Madrid, the visitor is not asked anything. "The museum does not deny the debate, but we do not want the exhibition to focus on it. We will have conferences where the issue will be addressed, but we have chosen not to incite, "he replies.The curator of the Spanish version of the exhibition, Juan Ángel López-Manzanares.

The commissioner adds that he is not afraid of reaction on social networks because criticism can come from anywhere. And as an example he puts to the protests that he has seen on Twitter about the exhibition that currently star in the museum Cristina Lucas and Eulàlia Valldosera. "I have read, for example, that we have delivered the museum to feminazis. Neither do we have to answer everything. "

Scenography designed to highlight the light

The works of the exhibition inaugurated in the Thyssen come from European and American public and private collections. One of the main pieces is The game of cards (1948-50), property of the museum and the only oil of Balthus registered in the Spanish collections. With a scenography designed to highlight the light of each painting (overhead lighting, rooms painted in different dark colors), the paintings are placed chronologically next to some more extensive posters than usual for the didactic interest in which López wanted to influence -Manzanares

Guillermo Solana, artistic director of Thyssen, defines Balthus as a great classic and the artist who with more subtlety has portrayed the passage of time. Individualist and clinging to figuration to describe his universe is, for Solana, a painter supported by twentieth-century intellectuals. Among them the creator knew how to move so well from his family origins in France (son of a family of Jewish intellectuals, his stepfather was Rainer Maria Rilke) or installed, most of his long life, in the Grand Chalet of Rossinière. Determined to continue in the same line, he ignored the vanguards and the great trends of his century. "In his language he combines the way of painting of the ancient masters he knew in Italy, but also surrealism", explains Solana. And the artistic director warns that it was not the French who put him in value with his great exhibition at the Pompidou in 1983. Much earlier, on December 19, 1959, he shared a program with Pollock at MoMA, a sample in which the critic The New York Times It highlighted his harsh realism and his magical and mysterious compositions.

The exhibition starts with a selection of Parisian landscapes made in the 20s to then thread with a gallery of portraits of men and women located in interiors in which only a piece of furniture or a cat that wanders between their legs accompanies them. In this section you will find the portrait of The Blanchard brothers (1937), a canvas purchased by Picasso from Balthus and which, according to Setsuko Ideta, was a very strong moral injection for her husband because, being two artists so different, that purchase represented an act of trust and admiration.

Then comes the wide selection of portraits of adolescent girls whom he painted on numerous occasions throughout his life. Thérèse Y Thérèse dreaming, both property of the Metropolitan, are the two most famous works have monopolized. Distracted and with the raised skirt, they are indicated as an example of eroticism and transgression. Juan Ángel López-Manzanares recognizes that sexual intention can be seen in the work, but believes that the theme of the paintings points to the desire to represent the mystery of things. "Those girls represent secret worlds like I did Lewis Carroll with his Alice. They talk about time, about the unknown, about all the mysteries he talked about with Rilke. "

In the presentation the absence of Carmen Thyssen has surprised. The Baroness is upset with the Ministry of Culture since the previous owner, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, suppressed his name in the official invitations to the museum. The current minister, José Guirao, has not recovered the name of the Baroness as hostess and has decided not to attend the inaugurations.


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