8th March – 18th April 2000
Sarah Lucas’ reputation rests upon witty, suggestive sculptures made out of fruit and discarded furniture. Lucas (born London 1962) is one of the original Goldsmiths College graduates who participated in Damien Hirst’s ‘Freeze’ show in 1988 which is now seen as the event that kick-started the current BritArt phenomenon. Her first solo show in 1992 was called ‘Penis Nailed to a Board’ and this set the tone for work to follow.
Not surprising then to find this announcement “Sarah Lucas at the Freud Museum” – the queen of phallic jokes taking up residence in the home of a man who unlocked our sexual subconscious and gave us terms like “penis envy”. Walking through these rooms forever under the gaze of Sigmund we have to entertain the question “What would Freud have made of Miss Lucas?” Would the father of psychoanalysis have spontaneously understood her placement of an eight foot high photograph showing her nipple poking through a ratty t-shirt directly above his sacred, celebrated, couch confessional?
The announcement continued... “In addition to placing new sculptures in the context of the Freud Museum, Lucas will customise the psychoanalyst’s furniture.”
On a chilly, wet Wednesday
at noon when most people are thinking about lunch, the Freud Museum was
packed out with Freud devotees who had made the pilgrimage from across
the globe. The fat guest book bulged with exotic place names like Milwaukee
and Melbourne. There were more people crammed into the half a dozen rooms
of this twee Hampstead home than Birmingham City Gallery on a good day.
Sadly Sarah, it was not you they were coming to see – your work was incidental
and from most remarks overheard, rather unwelcome. Cool university students
turned their backs on your installations and tried not to collide with
your protruding fluorescent tubes as they peered in glass cases full of
In the downstairs dining
room Lucas translates Freud’s plain wooden chairs into bodies by encasing
them in stretch underwear, again with light sources for sexual organs.
This time a long fluorescent member protrudes from a pair of cotton briefs
connecting the male chair/body to the female chair/body elevated on the
table. Called “The Pleasure Principle” Lucas alludes solely and wholly
to the sex act, leaving metaphors to float around the upstairs piece. Freud
gazes down on the dining table from a black and white photograph. “We have
all experienced how the greatest pleasure attainable by us, that of the
sexual act, is associated with a momentary extinction of a highly
intensified excitation.”, he wrote in “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”.
This would have been a good quote to place next to Lucas’ piece with a
switch inviting the viewer to turn off the power and extinguish the hot
white tube of sexual heat. For without the throbbing tube, the piece would
look quite banal.
Contemporary art in small historic museums has long been a popular thing with curators. Most often it’s about ‘memory’ with contemporary artists creating works that in some way relate to the actual history of the space. Lucas and Freud is a connection of concepts rather than objects evoking history and if visitors had time to stop heavy breathing over the romance of sepia photographs and tapestry camassars, they might witness how Freudian symbolism can be relevant to art today.
FREUD MUSEUM WEBSITE www.freud.org.uk
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