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Met’s Secret, Sexy Picasso

Is bared in London.


A big attraction at “Seduced: Art and Sex From Antiquity to Now,” at London’s Barbican Centre, is Picasso’s La Douleur, a blue-period oil depicting a grinning, youthful Pablo being orally serviced by a shapely, long-haired brunette. It’s been in the Met’s collection since 1982, but the museum doesn’t display it. Why not? “It’s not a very good painting, that’s the main thing,” says Gary Tinterow, a Met curator and Picasso scholar, who notes the museum received the work as part of a bequest. “If it didn’t have a sensational subject, nobody would look at it.” The Brits don’t think it’s that simple. “I think it is a very interesting and telling work in that particular point of Picasso’s career,” says Martin Kemp, an Oxford art historian who helped curate the London show. In the London Times, Joanne Bernstein, another curator, suggested the Met hasn’t shown it because “you know what the Americans are like.” Tinterow finds that ridiculous. “We have very graphic Schiele drawings, and we exhibit them all the time,” he says. “Deciding what to hang and what not to hang is always a matter of judgment. You can call it censorship, or you call it judgment.”

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