Much of the chatter at the 56th Venice Biennale, which opens this week, seems to be related to the British pavilion, which features works by that great YBA — always a YBA, but 53 this year, and living in the country — Sarah Lucas. It’s very much in the spirit of her practice, as there is a lot of genitalia. The phallic sculptures stretch toward the sky, the naked halves of white bodies flail around, and there are cigarettes sticking out of the anuses and vaginas. It looks like fun!
The British press have always treated the YBAs as saucy, sexy home-grown celebs, so the critics were out in full force to digest her naughty bits.
Here’s Alastair Sooke in The Telegraph:
Well, take the big sculpture in the opening gallery: a reclining, custard-coloured figure enigmatically titled Deep Cream Maradona. Arching his back, he thrusts a towering, 9-ft erection towards the skylight.
Oh, a nine-foot penis, you say? How long is that in metres, boy-o?
And then we have Karen Wright in The Independent, on her best behaviour:
All of the sculptures are true-to-life and have a cigarette protruding from the ass or fanny.
Note how the Brit use of “fanny” here does not change that fact that Lucas has shoved cigarettes up butts in the name of art.
And from this Adrian Searle review in The Guardian:
Each of their bodies provides a spider-like support for a humungous questing penis, reaching skyward. In the pavilion, the tip of the penis catches the light, gleaming white against the yellow walls.
Will Gompertz at the BBC also tries to be as demure as he can be given the circumstances, and comes close to some sort of delicate description:
It starts in the portico, which she has adorned with a fourteen-and-a-half foot phallus, bolt upright and painted bright yellow.
And nearly all of the reviews of the show are glowing, so expect to be hearing about these phalluses for some time.