Sarah Lucas: POWER IN WOMAN
Exhibition Dates: 10 March – 21 May
Sir John Soane’s Museum, North Drawing Room
“Sir John was continually, over a lifetime, collecting and extending his house to accommodate his collection. The whole edifice is his work of art. Strange then to intervene in his picture, temporarily.”
In spring 2016, Sir John Soane’s Museum will present POWER IN WOMAN, an exhibition by British artist Sarah Lucas. Three sculptures will be displayed in the North Drawing Room, each depicting a female figure in cast plaster. These works were first shown last year as part of Lucas’s acclaimed commission by the British Council for the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, I SCREAM DADDIO. The custard-yellow colour scheme of the Venice exhibition was inspired in part by the walls of Soane’s drawing rooms. Lucas’s contemporary bodies will here be set in a powerful dialogue with the Soane’s intimate spaces and extensive collection of classical casts.
This marks the first UK exhibition of Lucas’s works from the Venice Biennale, and it is made possible with the support of the Art Fund. This is a very rare occasion on which a living artist has situated works amid the Soane’s multi-layered collections. Over the course of two decades, Lucas has become recognised as one of Britain’s most significant contemporary artists. Spanning sculpture, photography and installation, her work has consistently been characterised by irreverent humour and the use of everyday ‘readymade’ objects – furniture, food, tabloid newspapers, tights, toilets, cigarettes – to conjure up sexual puns and corporeal fragments.
The three sculptures that will appear at the Soane derive from a series of ten bodies in cast plaster, collectively titled the Muses, for which Lucas used various friends as models. Each presents the female body as literally ‘topless’ – a pair of legs arrested at the waist, adopting a range of poses from the coy to the confrontational. The figures of Yoko and Pauline are seated, poised or relaxed, on chairs. The naked body of Michele lies on a desktop, legs apart, in both an echo and a subversion of the tradition of the reclining female nude.
In form and material, Lucas’s sculptures mirror the classical plaster casts that Soane accumulated over his life, and which fill the Colonnade and Museum Corridor at the rear of the building. As in these antique examples, Lucas condenses the body into a dramatic gesture. And yet her Muses are also strikingly real: “Soane’s plasters are casts from the marble originals”, she has explained. “Mine, on the other hand, are cast direct from the woman in question using the rough and ready method of making a waste mould by applying plaster bandage directly onto the body. The mould doesn’t survive … There’s very little room in the process for refining the figure or otherwise idealising it.”
A symbol of daily life (and of death) is implied by the cigarettes which have been implanted in each figure, slyly puncturing their elegance. By placing the figures on items of furniture, Lucas returns to the use of everyday objects that has defined her career. The traditional plinth is replaced by the stuff of reality – in a juxtaposition of classical form and furniture that reflects the make-up of the Soane itself, where antiquities pervade personal spaces.
This is only the second occasion on which the British Council has toured a British Pavilion exhibition in the UK. In 2014 Jeremy Deller’s exhibition for the British Pavilion, at the 55th Venice Biennale, undertook a national tour visiting three museums and galleries in London, Bristol and Margate. The tour, supported by the Art Fund, was the first of its kind for a British Pavilion exhibition, and enabled the public to see the British-Council commissioned work, adapted specially for each venue.
Event: Sarah Lucas in conversation
Tuesday 22 March. 19:00-20:30
Royal College of Surgeons, WC2A 3PE
Leading British artist Sarah Lucas will be in conversation to mark her exhibition POWER IN WOMAN at the Soane. Joined by Jonathan Reekie, Director of the Somerset House Trust, and the curator and writer James Putnam, she will touch on subjects including casting, gender, and the body. While looking at the relationship between Lucas’s plaster casts of female bodies and the collections of the Soane, the discussion will also set this project in the context of her wider career.
Book online at www.soane.org/whats-on
Additional events listed on Sir John Soane’s Museum website
Exhibition: Sarah Lucas, POWER IN WOMAN
Dates: 10 March – 21 May 2016
Address: Sir John Soane’s Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3BP
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm. Last entry 4:30pm
Sir John Soane’s Museum Press Office
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Notes to Editors
Sir John Soane’s Museum
Sir John Soane’s house, museum and library at No. 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields has been a public museum since the early nineteenth century. On his appointment as Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy in 1806, Soane (1753-1837) began to arrange his books, classical antiquities, casts and models so that students of architecture might benefit from access to them. In 1833 he negotiated an Act of Parliament to preserve the house and collection after his death for the benefit of ‘amateurs and students’ in architecture, painting and sculpture. Today Sir John Soane’s Museum is one of the country’s most unusual and significant museums with a continuing and developing commitment to education and creative inspiration. The museum is open free: Tuesday to Saturday inclusive, 10am-5pm. It is also open on the first Tuesday evening of each month from 6-9pm. www.soane.org
Sir John Soane’s Museum is a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) whose prime sponsor is the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Sarah Lucas (b. 1962, London) studied at the Working Men’s College (1982–3), London College of Printing (1983–4), and Goldsmith’s College (1984–7). She exhibited in the seminal group show Freeze (1988), which was followed by solo shows Penis Nailed to a Board, City Racing, London, and The Whole Joke, Kingly Street, London (both 1992). In 1993 she collaborated with Tracey Emin on The Shop, Bethnal Green Road. She has since exhibited internationally – major exhibitions include MoMA New York (1993); Museum Boymans-van Beunigen, Rotterdam (1996); Portikus, Frankfurt (1996); the Freud Museum, London (2000); Tecla Sala, Barcelona (2000); and In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (with Angus Fairhurst and Damien Hirst) at Tate Britain (2004). A retrospective took place in 2005 at Kunsthalle Zürich, Kunstverein Hamburg and Tate Liverpool. Recent international residencies and exhibitions include LUCAS BOSCH GELATIN, Kunsthalle Krems, Austria and NUZ: Spirit of Ewe, Two Rooms, Auckland, New Zealand (both 2011); Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli, Mexico City (2012; recently chronicled in the encyclopaedic book TITTIPUSSIDAD with photography by Julian Simmons); and Ordinary Things, a major exhibition of her sculpture, at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds (2012). From 2012-13, SITUATION – a space dedicated to her work at Sadie Coles HQ – hosted eight shows. 2012 saw the publication of After 2005 – Before 2012, a publication on her work covering seven prolific years. The British Council’s commission in Venice followed on from her major retrospective, SITUATION at Whitechapel (2013), and surveys of her work at Secession in Vienna (2013-14) and at Tramway in Glasgow (2014). I SCREAM DADDIO was accompanied by a book of the same title, authored by Lucas and designed by Julian Simmons.
About Britain at the Venice Biennale
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities and our work in the Arts involves the very best British and international artistic talent. We help increase audiences for UK artists’ work globally by organising exhibitions for display throughout the world, and welcome every opportunity to showcase our overseas exhibitions in Britain. The British Council has commissioned artists to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale since 1938, showcasing the very best of artistic talent from the UK. Artists representing Britain have included Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Ben Nicholson, Anthony Caro, Bridget Riley, Richard Long, Frank Auerbach, Howard Hodgkin, Barry Flanagan, Anish Kapoor, Richard Hamilton, Rachel Whiteread, Leon Kossoff, Gary Hume, Mark Wallinger, Gilbert & George, Tracey Emin, Steve McQueen, Mike Nelson, Jeremy Deller and Sarah Lucas in 2015.
The British Council appoints a committee of leading arts professionals from across the UK to select the British representation for the Venice Biennale every two years.
The committee for 2015 was:
– Charles Darwent, Art Critic and Writer
– Lisa Le Feuvre, Head of Sculpture Studies, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds
– Hannah Firth, Director of Visual Arts, Chapter, Cardiff
– Margot Heller, Director, South London Gallery
– Francesco Manacorda, Artistic Director, Tate Liverpool
– Francis McKee, Director, Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow
– Gregor Muir, Executive Director, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
– Polly Staple, Director, Chisenhale Gallery, London
Chair: Andrea Rose, former Director Visual Arts, British Council, London
As the UK’s principal agency for international cultural relations, the British Council organises a great many exhibitions for display throughout the world, however we welcome every opportunity to showcase our overseas exhibitions in Britain.
About the Art Fund
The Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone the Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, including ARTIST ROOMS and the 2013-18 Aspire tour of Tate’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows by John Constable, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators.
The Art Fund is independently funded, with the core of its income provided by 122,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 230 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibition. In addition to grant-giving, the Art Fund’s support for museums includes the annual Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year (won by The Whitworth, Manchester, in 2015), a publications programme and a range of digital platforms.
Find out more about the Art Fund and the National Art Pass at www.artfund.org
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