Lot 17
  • 17

Sarah Lucas

600,000 - 800,000 USD
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  • Sarah Lucas
  • Ace in the Hole
  • four bunnies (kapok, wire, tights, stockings, clamps, four chairs) and a baize card table
  • dimensions variable
  • Executed in 1998, this sculpture is unique.


Sadie Coles HQ, London (acquired from the artist)
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2002


Tochigi, Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Art; Fukuoka, Fukuoka Art Museum; Hiroshima, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art; Tokyo, Museum of Contemporary Art; Ashiya, Ashiya City Museum of Art, Real/Life (New British Art), 1998 - 1999, p. 71, illustrated in color
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art, 2013 Carnegie International, October 2013 - March 2014, cat. no. 115, n.p., illustrated in color


Exh. Cat., Zurich, Kunsthalle Zürich (and travelling), Sarah Lucas, 2005, p. 146, illustrated


This work is in excellent condition. The four chairs and baize card table exhibit signs of wear as to be expected with the nature of found objects. There is an area of slight pulling to the stocking of the right-most figure where it stretches over the back of the chair. On one side of the baize table top, there is a diagonal crack in the wood, extending approximately 5" in from the corner seam.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Personifying the poised swagger and brazen panache that floods Sarah Lucas’ oeuvre, Ace in The Hole is a spectacular installation that packs a serious visual and theoretical punch. Executed in 1998, the present work was recently exhibited in the acclaimed 2013 Carnegie International, emphatically demonstrating its enduring importance and indelible relevance to the landscape of contemporary art today. Ace in the Hole comes from Lucas’ renowned series of “Bunny” assemblages that she began in 1997: sculptural tableaux that incorporate stockings stuffed with cotton and wire, and shaped into the lower torso and legs of the female anatomy. The four figures’ limp legs are splayed, as their headless bodies curiously slither off chairs like cousins of the supine nude in Marcel Duchamp’s Étant Donnés. Affixed to their chair supports by clamps, the mannequins sit lifelessly in sexually suggestive positions; they are framed in a pyramidal configuration by the fourth figure whose chair rests atop a felt card table at the center of the scene.

The symmetry of the models’ arrangement recalls the face of a playing card, their red and black tights mirroring the standard color palette of a loaded deck. Embodying Lucas’ interest in vernacular expressions and the visual images that they conjure, the present work plays coyly on the poker term “Ace in the hole,” an idiom that conveys a strong sexual connotation. Lucas humorously bends this ambiguous turn of phrase to examine the implied sexual undercurrents and gender structures that, as her body of work consistently posits, are omnipresent. Ace in The Hole is archetypal of the fundamentally feminist modus operandi that preoccupies Lucas’ work, typifying her witty but thoughtful confrontation of male-dominated hierarchies. The poker table is a stereotypical prop from the male lair—a macho place that Lucas compromises here through her inimitable artistic lexicon of sexuality, death and social identity. Described by Matthew Collings as “an aesthetic terrorist pillaging mainstream culture,” Lucas harnesses attitudes that she believes already exist, simply mirroring the misogyny she finds in particular social settings. (Matthew Collings, Sarah Lucas, 2002, London, p. 33)

Ace in The Hole superbly exemplifies Lucas’ exploration of the sculptural possibilities of highly loaded everyday objects. Continually returning to the motif of the fragmented and twisted body in her work, the materials that Lucas modifies—furniture, clothing, food, cigarettes—are at once disposable and desirable, reflecting the interplay of sex and death that concern her. The stockings that Lucas uses to form the female bodies carry an erotic charge diffused of vitality: a cheap, throwaway intimacy. Lucas brilliantly animates these prosaic materials in a mise en scène where the figures are uncannily anthropomorphized: their anatomies simultaneously convey human weight and weightlessness, oscillating between attraction and absence. Inspiring reflection toward our own crude beliefs and repressed stereotypes about gender differences, Lucas’ work is penetrating, incisive and riotously funny. Ace in The Hole evokes Edward Kienholz and Robert Gober’s macabre maquettes, similarly plumbing the depths of modern human interaction, while drawing visual influence from the darkly poetic and philosophical surrealists René Magritte and Francis Bacon.

Soaring to prominence in the early 1990s as a founding member of the YBAs (Young British Artists), Lucas participated in both legendary exhibitions that launched the careers of breakthrough artists such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Chris Ofili, and Rachel Whiteread—Freeze, orchestrated by Hirst in 1988, and Sensation, from the collection of Charles Saatchi, in 1997. While Lucas’ work has commanded critical and commercial attention since her electrifying debut 25 years ago, the recent year has proven to be a milestone moment in the artist’s career as global interest in her work has skyrocketed. Cementing the timeless relevance of her work, Lucas was recently featured in two of the most important international surveys of contemporary art: the 2013 Carnegie International and the central exhibition of the 2013 Venice Biennale, Massimiliano Gioni’s The Encyclopedic Palace. Having just closed her highly praised 2013 retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, Lucas is preparing for the 2015 Venice Biennale, where she will represent the United Kingdom with a solo outing in the halls of the Giardini’s historic British pavilion. On the occasion of her recent retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, Alastair Sooke hailed, “And yet despite the lightness of touch of her sculptures, which were apparently made in the blink of an eye and plonked willy-nilly in the gallery, they also manage to pack a hefty punch – not only formally, in that Lucas knows how to work effectively with compositional elements such as colour, mass and space, but also tonally, in that her art can turn on a sixpence from comedy to despair. That takes serious talent. The exhibition at the Whitechapel confirms that Lucas is the most important of the YBAs, whose work stands the best chance of still feeling relevant in 100 years.” (Alastair Sooke, “Sarah Lucas: funny, compelling, rude and really, really good,” The Telegraph, October 3, 2013)