Sadie Lee makes realistic paintings of real people. Her challenging work first came to wider public attention when her painting Erect, a double portrait of Lee and her then partner sitting side by side in a stiff embrace, was selected for exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery’s annual BP Portrait Award in 1992. The painting was used as the image to publicise the show and was made into posters, displayed on tube station platforms, in magazines and shop windows across London. The image, with an ambiguous but clearly unconventional queer narrative, caught the imagination of a production company and a short film showing how the poster was defaced, sometimes with homophobic graffiti, was shown on Channel 4 as part of that year’s Out on Tuesday programme.
Lee’s work has been selected for exhibition in the BP Awards six times, being commended in 1998 and winning the Travel Award in 1996. The Travel Award enabled Lee to visit the Exotic World Burlesque Museum in California’s Mojave Desert, to meet and make studies of elderly women who were Burlesque Dancers in their youth. The resulting collection A Dying Art: Ladies of the Burlesque was shown as a one-woman exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 1997 and travelled to various galleries in the UK for a year.
Lee’s first one-woman show, Venus Envy, was at Manchester City Gallery in 1994, as part of the It’s Queer Up North Festival. She has since had one- woman shows at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, Schwules Museum, Berlin and the Museum of Modern Art, Slovenia. Group shows include exhibitions at the I.C.A., the Museum of London and Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art.
Sadie Lee regularly teaches art workshops at the Wallace Collection and for the past 15 years has worked with the Secondary, Public and Adult Programmes at the National Portrait Gallery as a freelance art educator. In 2005 the NPG invited her to lead a quarterly tour, Queer Perspectives, where she and an invited guest would select and discuss works in the collection that they considered to have a queer subtext. This immensely popular tour regularly attracts audiences of up to 100 people. Past guests have included the singer David McAlmont, author Ali Smith and playwright Neil Bartlett. Its popularity has led to Lee being invited to talk about Queer Perspectives and be involved at similar events at Tate Modern and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Sadie Lee lives and works in London.
Sadie Lee makes realistic paintings of real people. Recurring themes in her work deal with gender, sexuality, the representation of women and ageing. Her challenging paintings are often compared to the dark figurative work of New Objectivity artists of the 1930’s, such as Christian Schad and Otto Dix.