As exhibitions of Balthus prepare to open in New York, critic Jerry Saltz writes on the history of one of the artist’s more sordid works, The Guitar Lesson. Only exhibited once in 1977, the work has moved through the back channels of the art world in the past 40 years, finally coming to rest in the collection of shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos. “I don’t love Balthus’s work, but I grant that all parts of the best examples are charged with something wild, almost half-human, some sleeping need, rage, frustration, and restraint. What makes the banishment of The Guitar Lesson so bitter isn’t only that MoMA came this close to owning a second take on the blatant sexuality of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” Saltz writes.
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