Sarah Lucas exhibition opens at Tate Britain
Updated: Sep 28
She's one the most radical, trailblazing and enduring artists from the Young British Artists (YBA) movement of the 1990s, and now finally Sarah Lucas has her own major retrospective at the UK's home to British art, Tate Britain in London.
Called Sarah Lucas: Happy Gas, the exhibition spans four decades of Lucas' incredible career. It's open right now, and it's packed with her bold and irreverent art.
In fact, the show brings together more than 75 of Lucas' striking artworks, from breakthrough early sculptures and photographs, to brand new pieces being shown for the very first time. It's one of the largest shows of her art ever held, and it's all presented in her unique voice.
And with big, blown-up photographs of Lucas wallpapering some gallery walls (which are in fact her earliest and most well-known portrait Eating a Banana 1990) and even the plinths for sculptures designed by Lucas, she really does inhabit every corner of this show.
Art critics have showered praised on Happy Gas. “Gloriously filthy” is the Guardian’s verdict. “Grubbily fascinating" say the Times. And Time Out thinks “It’s not big, and it’s not clever, but it’s very, very good.” Nearly all the reviews for Sarah Lucas' Tate exhibition award it four or five stars.
So what can visitors expect? Well, there's a hell-of-a-lot of chairs in the display for starters. That's because they've played a major role in Lucas’ output for many years, as have portrayals of seated figures. In fact when first announcing details of the display, Lucas said “I decided to hang the exhibition mainly on chairs. Much in the same way that I hang sculptures onto chairs.”
Chair highlights include early works like The Old Couple 1992 — made from two chairs, a wax penis and a set of false teeth — through to later chair-based sculptures like Hysterical Attack (both Eyes and Mouths), both 1999, which formed part of an intervention at the Freud Museum in 2000.
The exhibition also goes on to explore the many new materials Lucas’s has embraced for her sculptures in recent years, including bronze, resin and concrete. These have been a major departure from the techniques she previously used for decades, such as tights and stuffing, cigarettes and food. Examples here include concrete furniture like Eames Chair 2015, bronze casts of stuffed phallic shapes like DICK ‘EAD 2018, and giant cast concrete vegetables such as Florian and Kevin 2013 which have been installed on the lawn outside Tate Britain to coincide with this exhibition.
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Sarah Lucas rose to prominence among the Young British Artists of the brassy, gritty decade of the 1990s, and she emerged alongside many other YBAs who went on to become famous-names such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Gavin Turk. She attended Goldsmiths College from 1984-87 and showed her work in Freeze, the legendary exhibition curated by Hirst in 1988. This was a generation that challenged the British art world and made an earth-shattering impact on the cultural landscape.
It's Lucas’s early works from this high-octane era that kick off the exhibition, including those made from tabloid newspaper spreads like Sod You Gits 1990 and Fat, Forty and Flab-ulous 1990. These introduce visitors to the artist’s use of innuendo and word-play, as well as her interest in feminist discourse and representations of the female body.
At the other end of the scale is a large gallery of recent sculptures made between 2019 and 2023, including 16 new works displayed for the very first time. Some show a return to the found objects and stuffed tights of Lucas’s early work, such as SUGAR (2020) and CROSS DORIS (2019), while others are rendered in finely cast bronze and resin. These recent works show how Lucas has continued to rethink the themes which have defined her career
These recent works show how Lucas has continued to rethink the themes which have defined her career, including the objectification of the female form and the anthropomorphic potential of everyday objects.
How much are Sarah Lucas Tate Britain exhibition tickets?
If you're excited to see Sarah Lucas: Happy Gas, then you can book tickets now. Tickets are £17 for adults, and concessions are £16. As usual, Tate Members get in free with no need to book.
And if you're a Sarah Lucas super-fan, or perhaps if you want to get in the mood for your visit, you can get your copy of the accompanying catalogue too. It features an interview between Sarah Lucas and journalist Louisa Buck, as well as new texts by writers Lauren Elkin and Nathalie Olah and a new poem by the artist Cerith Wyn Evans. Buy your copy here*.
Sarah Lucas: Happy Gas, supported by Burberry, runs at Tate Britain in London until 14 January 2024.
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