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Boucher and downward


    San Francisco’s Palace of the Legion of Honor has long been a reliable place to see old, reliable European art. A recent show, “Casanova: the Seduction of Europe”, for example, was several rooms full of work by those resplendent 18th Century names you see in all the art history books. Boucher’s “Portrait of Marie-Louise O’Murphy” (1752): there it was in the flesh (that happy turn of phrase being in this case barely sufficient). Along with many other super pieces.


       Recently, however, there has been an effort to jazz the place up a bit: get past the old stuff, shake off the dust. Last fall, for example, there was a show of Sarah Lucas sculpture. The come-on piece in the lobby was a plaster cast of a woman’s lower half, with a cigarette stuck up her anus. 

Sarah Lucas c. courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

        No doubt the guards accumulated a raft of hilarious anecdotes of parents, caught off guard, trying to explain this to their children. I didn’t ask.