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  • Video

    Sarah Lucas 'Wichser Schicksal (Wanker Destiny)', 1999

    “Its what you don’t see that makes the work much more invigorating both visually and intellectually. The body as a site - an intellectual space to investigate all sorts of ideas about politics of gender - has really been Sarah’s main thrust in her work for the past 25 years.” Phillips' Deputy Chairman of Europe & Asia Matt Carey-Williams presents Sarah Lucas' 'Wichser Schicksal (Wanker Destiny)', 1999 to be offered in our Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 29 June in London.

  • Provenance

    Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin

  • Exhibited

    Berlin, Contemporary Fine Arts, Beautiness, 16 October-31 December 1999
    Bielefeld, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, The Surreal Woman: Femaleness and the Uncanny in Surrealism, 2 September-18 November 2001

  • Literature

    U. Grosenick, Women Artists in the 20th and 21st Century, Cologne: Taschen, 2001, p. 335
    M. Collings, Sarah Lucas, London: Tate Publishing, 2002, p. 107 (illustrated)
    Sarah Lucas, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Zürich, Zürich, 2005, pp. 74, 152 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The body looms large in Sarah Lucas’ work. Using a range of materials from fried eggs to pantyhose, she draws vitality from the everyday to create arresting corporeal forms. Laden with humour, sexuality and politics, her sculptures amuse as they provoke. Exhibiting work in the now iconic Freeze (1988) exhibition, Lucas rose to prominence in the early 1990s as part of the YBA generation. Sharing the impetuosity of her former contemporaries, she combines the abject and the ecstatic, exploring modernity with warmth, honesty, and a punning intelligence.

    The present lot comprises a motorised arm inside a wooden box. Moving up and down in an act of continual self-gratification, the form is reflected in the mirrors that line the walls. The effect is one of replication; a repeated onanistic series seems to stretch beyond the confines of the container. Explaining its inception, Lucas relates ‘my feeling is that wanking is all about time. Sex in general is time, literally – the wanking arms looks and feels and sounds in the head, like a clock. It’s always going on. Somebody else takes over where you left off ... So the mirror effect was a way of doing something that suggests infinity’ (Sarah Lucas in Matthew Collings, Sarah Lucas, London: Tate Publishing, 2005, p.105).

    Poised between the lofty and the crude, the piece strikes a delicate balance. Lucas makes a bold point all the while avoiding grandiose overstatement. Her formal and material choices are crucial in this respect; as she recounts ‘it could have been more than just the arm: a whole couple having sex. But, apart from the fact that this didn’t occur to me, it wouldn’t have been as good. For a start, it would have been sensational and trite and looked artificial. And another thing: the arm is real size, and a real-size copulating couple would be overblown and pretentious and have none of the dreary quality that the outside of a smallish unpainted box has.’ (Sarah Lucas in Matthew Collings, Sarah Lucas, London: Tate Publishing, 2005, p.105).

    This understated sensibility finds expression in much of the artist’s work, as in her most celebrated sculptures Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab (1992) and Au Naturel (1994). In the former, a table forms the basis of the sculpture; in the latter, a mattress. Both are quotidian forms, in states of varying dilapidation, and both are largely unadorned save for anatomically resonant arrangements of prosaic materials. Yet in their relative minimalism, the pieces are conceptually and formally rich, raising significant questions about the way in which we figure our bodies. Keenly aware of form and the value of simplicity, Lucas knows exactly when to stop.

    Typical of Lucas’ careful approach to composition is the absence of the phallic form from Wichser Schicksal (Wanker Destiny). The shape is cast implicitly by the hand’s curved grip, but remains an imaginary rather than actual presence. This absence adds a further layer of meaning to the work. As Lucas relates, ‘a dick is present, and masculinity is defined in terms of being present, being an artist is a macho activity because it deals entirely with what is present’ (Sarah Lucas in Carl Freedman, ‘A Nod’s as Good as a Wink: in Conversation with Sarah Lucas,' Frieze Magazine, Issue 17, June-August 1994). The present lot is a cunning subversion of this idea; reimagining the penis as vacuity, it is art that deals with absence. The resonances are significant, posing a challenge to conceptions of artistry and gender identity.

    Exhibited in Lucas’ 1999 show Beautiness, Wichser Schicksal (Wanker Destiny) was one of a number of works that dealt with masturbation. Big Cheaper (and you can do it at home) comprised a room within a cardboard box. Visible through a hole in the side was another mechanised arm moving up and down over an empty chair. The present lot shares much with this with this work: the deliberately enclosed space, the absent figure, and intimations of prurience and voyeurism. Recounting the setting of the exhibit, Dominic Eichler describes an ‘abandoned car workshop lined with exposed pipes, fluorescent lighting and stressed pale green paint’ (Dominic Eichler, ‘Sarah Lucas’, Frieze Magazine, Issue 51, March-April 2000) This rather lurid, purposely derelict quality is shared by Wichser Schicksal (Wanker Destiny); the machinery is visible and the model arm coarse and indelicate. In this grotesquely comic hall of mirrors, Lucas invites the viewer into a world of dereliction and repetition that is both unsettling and strangely entrancing.

    Reimagining human action as a mechanical process, the present lot directs the viewer’s attention to the banal; an act intended to give pleasure is recast as a perfunctory robotic gesture. In the same instance, the mirrors that line the wall and replicate the image lend the piece an illusory magnitude and even grandeur. The work is caught between these polarities: muted and cacophonous; perfunctory and spectacular; isolated and crowded. Here, as elsewhere in her oeuvre, Lucas’ keen understanding of material possibilities and their potential for ambiguous combination finds full expression.


Wichser Schicksal (Wanker Destiny)

painted fibreglass, aluminium, wood, mirrored glass, motor, control unit, cables
64.8 x 65.8 x 63.8 cm (25 1/2 x 25 7/8 x 25 1/8 in.)

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £182,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 29 June 2015 7pm