surinenglish

REVIEW

Too perverse for words

Before catching a plane for 'Borisland', aka my native Blighty - where the current 'politainment' kink consists in whipping up no-deal Brexit worst-case scenarios, the hardest hitting the better... - I nipped into the Museo Carmen Thyssen, for a quick peep at its hot-sounding summer offering: a temporary exhibition focusing on Modern Art's fascination for 'lethal ladies', which stops the clock at 1950.

Perversidad? Hmm, I wondered, looking at its saucy scarlet-hued Suzanne Valadon poster... Doesn't naming a show 'Perversity. Femmes Fatales in Modern Art (1880-1950)' smack a wee bit of post-Me Too 'wokitude'? All too conveniently, this historical overview of the representation of women, both on canvas and as artists, holds back on the brink of the second half of the 20th century, just as the fun and games were about to start.

What could be more 'perv-ectly' representative of the Swinging Sixties than Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg's scandal-raising hit, "Je T'aime... Moi Non Plus"? If there is a Perversidad II scheduled at the Thyssen, it will have to include a Dalí and a Picasso, as a nod to the artistic reference behind it. The "me neither" in the title famously alludes to a remark the surrealist provocateur made about his rival, Pablo Picasso: "Picasso is Spanish, me too. Picasso is a genius, me too. Picasso is a communist, me neither."

Perfectly in tune with a fashion trend that has been described as the "new modesty" (in a long-sleeved, crew-necked dress, worn with matching crimson lipstick), the Thyssen Museum's artistic director, Lourdes Moreno, exposes the "paradigm shift" underlying her three-part curatorial proposition, in a video featured on the Museo's website, kicking off with the advent of the femme fatale...

According to the show's curator, during the 19th century, painters drew inspiration from mythological, biblical and literary themes in order to depict female models in what she describes as a "negative" light, as "accursed beauties" or "Queens of the Underworld", and she attributes this sexist demonisation to fear of growing social protest and awareness among underprivileged women.

Moreno points out that the adjective 'perverse' has two meanings in Spanish: on the one hand, to cause harm deliberately, on the other, to rock the boat of established values. Gradually, astride of the 1920s and 1930s, female empowerment emerged. The third and final part of this 71-work world-class display spotlights the 'New Woman' of which Coco Chanel is an archetypal symbol.

To list the big names incorporated in this irresistible scholarly appraisal would be 'kinda perverse'. To deny its voyeuristic appeal, even more so... Catch it while you can!