Entertainment & Arts

Sarah Lucas unveils bawdy British show at Venice Biennale

Sarah Lucas exhibition Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lucas's exhibition features plaster cast sculptures of naked women

Sarah Lucas has unveiled a typically provocative show at the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Her exhibition, I Scream Daddio, opens with a custard-yellow sculpture called Maradona Banana Dream Merchant, which features a nine-foot phallus.

Elsewhere she has installed plaster casts of naked women, with cigarettes protruding from their orifices.

"I don't think it's an offensive or rude show, particularly," she told the BBC. "I mean, we've all got bodies."

Lucas, one of the original Young British Artists in the late 1980s, said "there are a lot of strange taboos that we all live under the influence of without thinking very much about".

"The thing that tickles me is to present some of those strange areas and open them up to the sunshine a bit."

'Confounding audiences'

The Biennale, at which dozens of countries erect a pavilion to showcase a work that says something about their nation, is sometimes branded "the Olympics of contemporary art".

The British Council has commissioned leading artists to represent the UK at the Biennale since 1938, with previous installations created by Jeremy Deller, Steve McQueen, Tracey Emin and Anish Kapoor.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The artist says the British Pavilion's yellow walls are supposed to represent a dessert

Lucas is known for her suggestive photographs and is known for transforming ordinary objects into evocative sculptures.

Emma Dexter, the British Council director who commissioned Lucas for Venice, said she had "risen to the occasion".

"Her provocative new pieces interrogate our assumptions about gender and domesticity, drawing on her previous work but on an unprecedented scale," she said.

'Like poking a bruise'

"I am confident that the British Pavilion this year will inspire, confound and move audiences both in Venice and around the world."

The Times' art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston was less impressed, saying the exhibition "gives an idea of Britishness which I find faintly embarrassing".

"It feels as if it's designed wilfully to provoke and provoke again," she told the BBC. "It's a bit like poking a bruise.

"In the end, you wonder how much longer you can take someone pushing and prodding before you yowl, 'oh stop!'"

Image copyright PA
Image caption Lucas's Self Portrait with Fried Eggs is on display at the Tate

The BBC's Arts Editor Will Gompertz said his initial reaction to the show was that it was "frankly slightly silly".

However, he went on: "The more time you spend in here, the more you begin to understand the sort of thoughts she's trying to express - about friendship, collaboration and being an artist living in the second decade of the 21st Century."

I Scream Daddio runs from 9 May to 22 November in the British Pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale.

Sarah Lucas' British Council commission is at the Venice Biennale from 9 May until 22 November.

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