Tate Britain, Artangel and A New Direction have invited every primary school in the capital to take part in one of world’s most ambitious contemporary art projects.
Turner Prize-winning artist and Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen is aiming to make a portrait of an entire age group of Londoners, capturing tens of thousands of Year 3 schoolchildren across London.
Over the next nine months, each and every one of London’s 2,410 primary schools with Year 3 pupils is invited to have those classes specially photographed for the project, with the resulting artwork going on display at Tate Britain and around London in autumn 2019.
115,000 seven-year-olds recently began the new school year in a new class in London. It is a milestone year in a child’s development and sense of identity, when they become more conscious of the world beyond their immediate family.
McQueen’s project will capture this moment of excitement, anxiety and hope through the traditional medium of the class photograph, depicting rows of children sitting or standing alongside their teachers and teaching assistants. In bringing together so many of these class photos from a single year, the work will embody the diversity of the city in which the artist grew up, as well as the potential of the next generation who will shape London’s future.
Already 120 schools have signed up to the project being. Others can register their school via the website tateyear3project.org.uk. They can then choose a date and time for a Tate photographer, briefed by McQueen, to visit their school and take their Year 3 class photo.
Specially created learning resources will also allow pupils to further explore the work’s key themes of belonging, identity and citizenship within the curriculum, while a live-streamed lesson will be staged in spring 2019 for primary school classes across the country to watch and engage with the project.
From November 2019 to May 2020, the Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain will be taken over by a vast installation of the photographs, free for all to visit. It will be a celebration of the tens of thousands of young Londoners, and a meditation on the social forces and personal developments that shape our lives.
Artangel, who are renowned for producing extraordinary art in unexpected places, will also create an outdoor exhibition of class photographs across each of London’s 33 boroughs, giving passers-by a glimpse of the future of their city. Tate Modern will then stage a major survey exhibition of McQueen’s work to coincide with the project, open from February to May 2020.
Steve McQueen: Year 3 is a partnership between the Tate, Artangel and creative learning specialists A New Direction, and is supported by Joseph and Abigail Baratta and De Ying Foundation, with media partner BBC London and film partner Into Film. The innovative project is curated by Clarrie Wallis, Senior Curator of Contemporary British Art, Tate Britain; James Lingwood, Co-Director, Artangel; and Cressida Day, Managing Director, Artangel; and is produced by Erin Barnes and Gemma Clarke, ArtsMediaPeople.
About Steve McQueen CBE
Of Grenadian and Trinidadian heritage, Steve McQueen was born in London in 1969 and currently lives and works in London and Amsterdam. He is one of the most renowned artists and filmmakers of his generation, creating works to be shown in gallery spaces as well as four cinematic films: Hunger (2008), Shame (2010), the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave (2013) and the upcoming Widows (2018).
Solo exhibitions of this work have been held around the world, including a major retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Schaulager, Basel in 2012-13. He won the Turner Prize in 1999, represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2009, and was awarded an OBE in 2002 and a CBE in 2011.
Main photo top: Year 3 class at Mayflower Primary School, Tower Hamlets, 2018. Photo © Tate