What is it with Sarah Lucas and eggs?

Volunteers just smashed 1,000 eggs at the artist’s request - our new book explains why she works with them
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Sarah Lucas, "Self-portrait with Fried Eggs," 1996. As posted on the New Museum's Instagram
Sarah Lucas, "Self-portrait with Fried Eggs," 1996. As posted on the New Museum's Instagram

Artists have used eggs for centuries, often combining yolks with pigments to paint delicate works. Yet the ovular piece created a few days ago at the New Museum has more in common with action painting than antique tempera pieces.

To make One Thousand Eggs “For Women”, the British artist Sarah Lucas invited a crowd of women to throw 1,000 eggs against the museum’s wall, creating a piece that will feature in her forthcoming retrospective, Au Naturel (opening 26 September).

This isn’t the first time she has made this piece; Lucas also staged One Thousand Eggs “For Women” in Berlin and Mexico, in each case around Easter time. Nor is it the only occasion on which Lucas has worked eggs into her art.

 

1000 Eggs - Sarah Lucas - photo courtesy New Museum Instagram
1000 Eggs - Sarah Lucas - photo courtesy New Museum Instagram

In 1992 she created Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab, an installation of these foodstuffs on a wooden table; in 1996, she made Self-Portrait with Fried Eggs (above); and in 1996 she made Future, a box of plaster eggs.

Some of these early works are a spunky response to the kind of misogyny Lucas was subjected to in Britain, where men of a certain outlook might compare a flat-chested woman’s breasts to fried eggs, and her genitalia to a doner kebab sandwich.

“I live with remarks like that all my life,” Maggie Nelson quotes Lucas as saying in her new essay, published in our Sarah Lucas book, “And I think, ‘Well, yeah, I can make that same kind of remark just like you can, and I can make it look fucking good into the bargain.’”

Of course, not everything is reduced to this level; Lucas’s communal egg-smashing events are fun, convivial affairs. “The event recalls “egg tossing”, an Easter game that dates back to medieval times,” writes the New Museum’s Margot Norton in our new book, “early Christians adopted the egg as a symbol of rebirth from pagan rites of spring.

“Lucas’s event is likewise thoroughly celebratory, endowing her participants with this symbol of renewal, immortality and growth,” Norton goes on. “By designating the event “for women”, moreover, she puts the fate of the egg – typically understood as the female reproductive cell – into the hands of women, perhaps alluding to political debates concerning women’s rights over their own bodies. As with many of Lucas’s projects, One Thousand Eggs “For Women” summons both ancient and self-fabricated mythologies in order to demolish them, invoking a sense of hope through their destruction.”

 

Sarah Lucas Au Naturel

To learn more about Sarah Lucas’s art, life and outlook, and to gain a thorough understanding of her New Museum show order a copy of our book, Sarah Lucas Au Naturel which accompanies the show.

 


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