Sarah Lucas, British Pavillion
The provocative British artist still on top at the Venice Biennale.
In the 1990s, Sarah Lucas, who will be representing Britain this year, rose to fame by pushing bawdy visual puns to knowing extremes. In landmark sculptures like Au Naturel (1994), in which a bucket, two melons, and an upright cucumber sit on a worn mattress to personify a couple, crude gags met an undercurrent of disappointment. Like her fellow Young British Artists, Lucas created edgy work (Bunny Gets Snookered #8, 1997, left)—and the tabloids were happily outraged. With her erstwhile co-conspirator Tracey Emin, she ran the seminal East London project the Shop, where they made and sold art and T-shirts. But while Emin remained a fixture in the press, Lucas retreated to toil quietly from her home in rural Suffolk. Her work, once enmeshed in contemporary British grime, has evolved into a more timeless riff on sex and the human condition. For now, Lucas is keeping mum on the contents of her Venice pavilion, but one would do well to look at her recent sculptures, which have included the gutsy NUDs, 2009—stuffed nude stockings twisted into garlands of breasts, intestines, and snaking penises—as well as giant bone-white phalluses and even the odd traditional polished bronze. Her work, observes the pavilion’s curator, Emma Dexter, “shows us the ridiculousness and absurdity of the body as well as its fragility and awkwardness.”