British Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale
Artist: Sarah Lucas
Curator: Richard Riley
Commissioner: Emma Dexter
Exhibition Organizer: Katrina Schwarz
Venue: Pavilion at Giardini
The public image of Sarah Lucas is that of her attitudinal self-portraits from the 1990s, taken amid the London-based Young British Aritst (YBA) art scene. With sexual ambivalence, she bites into a banana, sits on a toilet seat, puts fried eggs over her breasts. Twenty-five years later, Lucas is still one of Britain’s most enigmatic artists, and while her work has matured, her readymade materials—cigarettes, food, tabloid papers, pantyhose—remain the same. Her “NUDS” sculptures stuff stockings into protruding shapes and amorphous volumes, and her plaster and metal phalluses sit heavy and provocative.
The writer Olivia Laing has described the charisma of Lucas’s practice as “an experiment in how little you need to ignite the whole grim psychodrama of gender and sexuality.” For it is through the most basic items that Lucas approaches the unapproachable: sex, death, and abjection. She recontextualizes these everyday materials to analyze ideas of Britishness, making her a natural choice to represent Britain.
Lucas’s solo exhibition for the British Pavilion comes on the heels of a major retrospective, “SITUATION Absolute Beach Man Rubble,” at the Whitechapel Gallery in 2013 and surveys of her work at Secession in Vienna (2013-14) and Tramway in Glasgow (2014). The chair of the 2015 Venice Biennale Selection Committee, Andrea Rose, says she is looking forward to seeing how Lucas will “prick convention.” The exhibition is sure to bring an impolite wit to this year’s Biennale.