Abusing the Marquis de Sade

PARIS — Georges Bataille, in The Accursed Share, said that if the Marquis de Sade had not existed, he would have had to been invented. But probably one of the biggest badasses of all time did exist. And, as if to prove it, on the bicentenary of the death of the “divine marquis” (Donatien Alphonse de Sade) the Musée d’Orsay has put together a sex sellsblockbuster exhibition: Sade: Attacking the Sun.

Given the exhibition’s spew of explicit sexual and violent images, one may thank the French again for their social-sexual candor and maturity, as this is a show I imagine might be impossible to mount (pun intended) in the repressive cultural/political climate of the United States — as well as many other countries in the world. It is a bit subversive, titillating, and instructional in its complex beatitudes, with brilliant pieces of visual metamorphosis by Ingres, Francisco Goya, Eugene Delacroix,Théodore Gericault, Paul Cézanne, Rops, Duchamp, Man Ray, Hans Bellmer, and Rodin, amongst many others.

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