YBA Sarah Lucas Gets a Room of Her Own Above Sadie Coles in London

YBA Sarah Lucas Gets a Room of Her Own Above Sadie Coles in London
(photo by Coline Milliard)

Last night Sarah Lucas opened the first exhibition at Situation, a project space above Sadie Coles in London's Burlington Place that she will curate for the next year. "It was Sadie's idea originally," Lucas told ARTINFO UK. "I said OK, that would be nice." In the main room, her signature theme of in-your-face intimacy is enforced by wallpaper featuring a close-up of Lucas's breasts in a grey t-shirt, nipples visible through small holes. Situation's program will primarily be dedicated to the artist's work, and this inaugural show sets the tone, featuring five pieces by Lucas, including a video of her partner Julian Simmons, shown rubbing a pair of fake boobs afixed to his bare chest. 

The wild YBA years are now history and Lucas, like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, has long entered the British establishment. Yet unlike other members of her former crew, she has maintained a relatively low profile, toiling away on her twisted representations of the female body which ooze gender politics and tongue-in-cheek eroticism. Situation is an opportunity for Lucas to revisit some of her greatest hits. In a small adjacent room, a coat hanger is adorned with fried eggs on each side and a raw chicken dangling at crotch level. It's Lucas's iconic lexicon in a nutshell: all arrogant egg-tits and poultry vagina.

But more than 15 years after her infamous "Self Portrait with Fried Eggs" (1996), the artist's relationship to the issues that have underlined most of her practice is now more settled and playful. "Nice Tits" (2011), a large ball made of dozens of stuffed stockings hanging over a pair of concrete boots, pokes fun at the fantasy of an all-breast woman. Lucas navigates the absurd with "Miss Jumbo Savaloy," a hanging egg chair covered with stuffed stockings — a seat in which she spent most of the opening evening. Cosy.

Although Situation is effectively a Sadie Coles project space bankrolled by the gallery, there a pleasant rough-and-readiness to it, redolent of artist-run-spaces — perhaps even nodding to The Shop Lucas and Emin ran for six months in 1993. It's a bit of grit in the super-sleek commercial gallery apparatus, a place to experiment and improvise. "I don't have too much of a plan," Lucas told ARTINFO UK. In the coming months, she might change the display, add and remove works, or invite artists to exhibit without necessarily having an official preview or a well-designed invite each time. The idea is to keep things simple, fluid, and improvised. Some may argue that a traditionally underground format has been hijacked by a blue-chip dealer, but Lucas isn't exactly an "emerging artist" either though she's certainly retained some of her ragged edges. And London's galleries could certainly do with a shake up of their exhibition model.

To contact the writer of this story, write to Coline Milliard at cmilliard[at]artinfo.com