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Tate’s Sarah Lucas exhibition reviews: what the critics say

Updated: Sep 29

Tate Britain have opened their big new exhibition featuring the work of British artist Sarah Lucas. And the reviews all seem to say one thing: ‘brace yourselves!’

Sarah Lucas: Happy Gas is a huge retrospective, with more than 75 artworks spanning four decades on show.

Pieces range from breakthrough early sculptures and photographs, to brand new works that have never been seen before.

Lucas emerged from the Young British Artists of the early 1990s — dubbed the YBAs — and her show at Tate is presented fully in her own unique voice.

And it's clear from the critics who have reviewed the art exhibition, that her unique voice is bellowing that this is not a show for the prudish or the faint hearted.

Sarah Lucas exhibition reviews

“Gloriously filthy” is the Guardian’s verdict. Adrian Searle awards the show four-stars and says that it's “an exhibition devoted to sex, smoking, death, the nudge-nudge.”

Two sculptures in the form of women sitting in chairs are placed in front of a blown up photograph of the artist eating a banana
Sarah Lucas HAPPY GAS Installation View at Tate Britain 2023. Photo © Tate (Lucy Green)

Searle reveals it’s no ordinary retrospective, with old and new works sitting side by side, and that Lucas has designed everything: from the seating to the plinths for the sculptures. It makes for a “wonderfully theatrical and surprising” show he says, adding that it’s an “exhilarating cornucopia of sex, jokes and death.”

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It’s a view echoed by Laura Freeman in the Times, who says “it’s puerile, it’s a piss-take, it’s in-yer-face.” Not your usual verdict of Tate Britain shows that’s for sure.

She praises the display as a reassessment of the brash, brassy and tabloid world of the 1990s. “Grubbily fascinating” she concludes, but with a warning to potential visitors:If you’re going to be offended by boobs, gussets and wanking, don’t go to Happy Gas.”

The Evening Standard loved it too, awarding it five-stars. An intoxicated — and intoxicating — show” says Ben Luke for the paper, who went on to praise Lucas for avoiding what he says are the common pitfalls of big retrospectives.

Four sculptures including a chair on display in a room of orange tones
Sarah Lucas HAPPY GAS Installation View at Tate Britain 2023. Photo © Tate (Lucy Green)

Luke is particularly taken by the room featuring a large number of Lucas' chair sculptures, which feature a mix of her “bunnies” — which are human forms made from stuffed tights to fashion limbs — and works made from plaster casts of her friends' lower halves of their body. The 36-meter ‘procession’ of these pieces is “one of the best rooms” Luke has seen all year, he says.

He “left wanting more, with an abiding feeling of an artist at the height of her powers.”

There was one lone critic who didn’t leave full of happy gas. “As funny as lead” and “about as rebellious as paper doilies” is En Liang Khong’s conclusion for the Telegraph. You can’t win them all.

But perhaps Eddy Frankel writing in Time Out sums up the overarching assessment between (nearly) all the reviewers: “It’s not big, and it’s not clever, but it’s very, very good.”

Sarah Lucas: Happy Gas, supported by Burberry, is at Tate Britain until 14 January. The exhibition's accompanying catalogue is available to buy now*.

(*This website is reader-supported. When you buy through this link, we may earn a small commission.)

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