How can to two twisted beer cans be compared to the male sexual organs? In Sarah Lucas’s humorous works, she challenges the associations we often ascribe to the gendered body.

Sarah Lucas, Beer Can Penis, 2000, ARKEN Museum of Modern Art

In visual art culture and art history bodies are represented in the same sexualised way again and again. The shape formed by the heap of cans has been created in infinitely many variations in order to more or less directly suggest the erect penis. Lucas’s works are an ambivalent mixture of moral attitudes and direct fasci­na­tion. There are both seriousness and amusement when she presents the symbols in their most banal and explicit form. She depicts the absurdity of reducing gender identity and expression to simple bodily sym­bols and the cultural nostalgia found in that connection. She speaks to the lowest common denomi­na­tor in order to emphasise a media image that is often sexually oriented at the expense of the female sex.


A salmon on in the street

Through self-portraits Sarah Lucas has challenged sexual stereotypes and representations of gender. She deliberately presents herself androgynously, dressed in big boots, jeans, and T-shirts, and she poses more as a man than as a woman. In Got a Salmon on in the Street #3 Lucas stands in a street and holds a large photo­­­graph of a naked man’s lower body up in front of her. The man covers his crotch with a foaming can of beer that he is opening. The ambiguous title of the work illustrates Lucas’s fondness for visual jokes, “Salmon” is English slang for the female sexual organ while “got a salmon on” is a reformulation of the expression “got a hard on”, which refers to the male erection. The title is therefore a written coupling of male and female sexuality just like the person in the street, who appears as a mixture of male and female. Got a Salmon on in The Street #3 is a critique of a joke, but at the same time a witty comment in itself. She mixes the witty, the sarcastic, the sexual and the unseemly in her representation of an alternative female identity.


About Sarah Lucas

Sarah Lucas was part of the group of ’Young British Artists’ who became internationally known in the early 1990s for their shock strategies and self-promotion. Since her breakthrough she has participated in several group and solo exhibitions all over the world, worked as a curator and represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2015. Lucas’s praxis uses humorous and ironic tactics to challenge sexual stereotypes and conventional depictions of gender.

B. 1962, lives and works in London, England.

Sarah Lucas studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths College in London in 1984-87.


Sarah Lucas, Got a Salmon On in the Street #3, 2001, ARKEN Museum of Modern Art