Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Gagosian Gallery, London

Head for Vivienne Westwood and you're nearly there: Bling, punk chic and Hell's Angel sentimentality meet in a single piece that holds its own amid the boutiques

The past fortnight having possibly left you with short-term memory loss, I'm going to do a small show this week so small, in fact, that it consists of only one work, although the work in question is admittedly large. Called Sacrificial Heart, it is a sculpture by that sulphurous couple Sue Webster and Tim Noble. You can see it in the window of the Gagosian Gallery's new space in Mayfair in west London.

Of course, there are other things to look at in Davies Street, that being rather its point. Gordon Ramsay's restaurant is up the road from Gagosian and Vivienne Westwood is right opposite. Sacrificial Heart is, as its name suggests, a heart, measuring perhaps a metre and a half high and wide and made out of moulded fibreglass. It is, as you would also expect, red and shiny, its redness and shininess being highlighted by dozens of multicoloured fairy lights that wink on and off as the work turns on its stand. Through the heart is a fibreglass dagger, its tip dripping with drops of fibreglass blood that swing as the sculpture goes round. Given Westwood's trademark royal orb logo in the window opposite, it seems possible that Sacrificial Heart is advertising some brand of luxury good; and so, in a sense, it is.

That "good" is art. T J Clark's excellent book, The Painting of Modern Life, floats the idea that Baudelaire's flneur may have been the world's first window shopper. The invention of plate glass allowed for department store vitrines (and, come to that, for big windows in private galleries), and that in turn led to what a certain kind of art theorist calls "the commodified gaze". This was fixed as much on art as on fashion, so that Noble and Webster's link with Vivienne Westwood is not as impossible as it sounds.

The question that then arises a question I imagine the artistic duo want us to ask is whether Sacrificial Heart is just another commodity, if works of art are really no different from rhinestone bustiers. This doubt has plagued the YBA generation mightily of late. (Witness the rise of Bling Art, as epitomised by Damien Hirst's 50m diamond-and-platinum skull For the Love of God.) What, apart from five metres of tarmac, separates Noble and Webster's work from Westwood's? How is her punk chic different from theirs?

It's a question that cuts to the quick of Western culture, and not just in terms of its aesthetics. On one level, Sacrificial Heart raises the same kinds of doubts about fashion and kitsch as those raised by Jeff Koons's balloon bunnies and gilded Michael Jacksons. But Noble and Webster's work also draws on other iconographies, among them those of Christianity and biker gangs.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a central symbol of Catholic worship, a metaphor for Christ's sufferings and love. Sacr Coeur, the great hilltop church of Paris, is built to its devotion. Like Sacrificial Heart, the Sacred Heart is bound with thorns and run through by a dagger: but then that same image can also be found tattooed on the arms of Hell's Angels. If you're trying to locate Noble and Webster's new work culturally, in other words, you could bypass Westwood for the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Farm Street, or you could equally head for the Salvation Army hostel on Hanover Square.

All of which is to say that Sacrificial Heart comes spiked with cultural collisions of art and fashion, good and bad, high and low, the sacred and profane. Other people's work has mined this same lode the Chapman brothers' various hells, the porn-star Saint Sebastians of Pierre and Gilles but what makes Webster and Noble's so strong is that it doesn't allow for tidiness. The pair are genuinely nasty artists, and I mean that as a term of praise. What is the difference between a biker's tattoo and divine love? Between art and fashion, good and bad or anything and anything else?

Sacrificial Heart turns quietly on its stand and says nothing. It is repellent and, in a Vegas kind of way, really quite pretty. It is also horribly consistent. Ten years ago, Noble and Webster made a two-dimensional wall piece of the same subject and called it Toxic Schizophrenia. Times have changed but their work has not, other than to become a little fuller, a bit nastier. I'm not recommending this show as a spiritual pick-me-up for the New Year, but if you'd like your assumptions shaken for 2008, then Davies Street is a good place to start.

Gagosian, Davies Street, London W1 (020-7493 3020) to 23 February

Further reading 'The Painting of Modern Life', T J Clark (Princeton University Press)

Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'