Sarah Lucas - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 13, 2023 | Phillips
  • “Humour is about negotiating the contradictions thrown up by convention. To a certain extent humour and seriousness are interchangeable. Otherwise it wouldn’t be funny. Or devastating.” 
    —Sarah Lucas

    Playful and provocative, the sculptural work of British artist Sarah Lucas engages directly with questions of gender, power, and the body, challenging certain assumptions upheld by the male gaze, and querying the role that sex plays in shaping British cultural identity. With characteristic wit, Jubilee brings these aspects of her practice together, the concrete cast of two thigh-high platform boots combining formal simplicity with a wry, Surrealist humour. Typically associated with sex work and fetish-wear, the boots are erotically charged objects - ones which not only stand in for the body but draw on a wide range of connections related to eroticism, performance, sex, and gender. Although at first glance we might assume that the boots belong to a woman, as Lucas explains, with their larger shoe size, these are shoes specifically designed for use by men, glamour footwear used in the performance of femininity. Poking fun at the reductive nature of our assumptions around gender and sexuality, Jubilee is ‘both ridiculous and triumphant, a paralysed, knock-kneed abjection of a pole-dancer’s kinky boots, supple fetish object turned sagging, phallic sculpture’, subtly calling attention to the performative nature of gender itself.i



    Kinky Boots and Surrealist Legacies


    This tension between the familiar and the absurd, and of the way in which everyday objects operate as proxy for the body highlights Lucas’ close dialogue with Surrealism and its legacies. Evoking the body that occupies them through an uncanny play between absence and presence, for René Magritte shoes emphasised the disorientating slippage between inside and outside, human and nonhuman and spoke poetically to the ‘treachery of images’ that so preoccupied him. A riposte to the earth-bound ruddiness of Vincent Van Gogh’s peasant shoes, Magritte’s Le modèle rouge refuses the clear distinction of object and subject, combining the two together in an image whose disturbing power lies in this conflation and in the confrontation with our own bodies as object.


    [Left] René Magritte, Le modèle rouge, 1935, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Image: Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2023

    [Right] Salvador Dalí, Surrealist Object Functioning Symbolically, 1931-73, The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois. Image: © Art Institute of Chicago / Through prior gift of Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman / Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation/DACS, London 2023


    Shoes also held a special fascination for Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí as a supreme example of what he termed ‘objects with a symbolic function’. Putting forward a definition of this in 1931, Dalí explained: ‘these objects, which lend themselves to a minimum of mechanical functioning, are based on the fantasies and representations that can arise from the performance of subconscious acts’, echoed in Lucas’ own transformation of everyday objects into ambiguous and absurd new relationships.


    First coming to prominence in the early 1990s as a leading figure of the group of ‘Young British Artists’ championed by Charles Saatchi and capturing the rebellious energy of a generation alongside the likes of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, Lucas was involved in some of the most defining exhibitions of the era including the 1988 Freeze and 1997 Sensation. Tate Britain in London have just opened a major retrospective of the artist's work, including examples from across her thirty-year career. Executed in 2013, Jubilee belongs to a series of works with the same title in varying scales that the artist first began working on in 2012, although concrete shoes have been a recurring feature of her sculptural work since her 2003 Unknown Solider. One of five Jubilee sculptures in this scale made between 2013 and 2014, the present work is one of only two to have been made in plaster. 


    Speaking eloquently about her use of this particular material, and the casting methods that she used in these works Lucas explains: ‘That’s another thing I like about that method, it is a little bit haphazard, and you do end up with these very fat seams, but I like that. [..] I think it makes it a stronger sculpture having all those things; it makes it more palpable, and does give you those lines to follow […] There is a lot of reality and literalness as a process of taking an image from somebody that way and in the time it takes to do it, which has to be quite fast because the materials you’re using are going off quite fast.’ii Examples of Jubilee have been included in all of Lucas’ major retrospectives to date, including her 2012 SITUATION Absolute Man Beach Rubble held at Whitechapel Art Gallery in 2012, and her first significant institutional show in the United States, Sarah Lucas: Au Natural, which featured a towering example of the work standing at 7 ft tall.



    Sarah Lucas in conversation with Don Brown, film by Julian Simmons, La Biennale di Venezia, 2015


    Collector’s Digest

    • Sarah Lucas first rose to prominence as part of the YBA scene centred in London in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since her inclusion in early, iconic exhibitions such as Freeze and Sensation, she has gone on to have major retrospectives all over the world, representing Britain at the 2015 Venice Biennale. The artist is currently being honoured with a mid-career survey show at Tate Britain in London.

    • One of five Jubilee sculptures in this scale made between 2013 and 2014, the present work is one of only two to have been made in plaster. 


    i J.J. Charlesworth, ‘Sarah Lucas: Rose Bush’, ArtReview, 5 November, 2012, online.

    ii Sarah Lucas in conversation with Don Brown, filmed by Julian Simmons at the 56th La Biennale di Venezia, online.

    • Provenance

      Sadie Coles HQ, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2013



plaster, steel rods, concrete slabs and MDF plinth
boots 81 x 41 x 38.8 cm (31 7/8 x 16 1/8 x 15 1/4 in.)
slabs each 3.6 x 45 x 45 cm (1 3/8 x 17 3/4 x 17 3/4 in.)
plinth 85 x 43.4 x 43.4 cm (33 1/2 x 17 1/8 x 17 1/8 in.)
overall 173.2 x 45 x 45 cm (68 1/4 x 17 3/4 x 17 3/4 in.)

Executed in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

£100,000 - 150,000 ‡♠

Sold for £101,600

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 13 October 2023