“I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way,” sang Whitney Houston in the ‘Greatest Love of All’, Steve McQueen, London-based artist, screenwriter, and film director believes the same. Winner of the Turner Prize, the highest award given to a British visual artist McQueen has created an installation artwork of billboards showing class photos of thousands of children from the capital’s schools at London’s Tate Britain.
There are 613 posters across London’s 33 boroughs, featuring Year 3 (United States 2nd Grade) pupils, celebrating the idea of citizenship and reflecting the diversity of London.
McQueen said the project was inspired 21 years ago after he became a father.
Explored through the vehicle of the traditional school class photograph, this vast new artwork is one of the most ambitious portraits of children ever undertaken in the United Kingdom. It offers us a glimpse of the capital’s future, a portrait filled with hope, of a generation to come.
McQueen invited every Year 3 (seven to eight years old) pupil in London to have a photograph taken by a team of specially trained Tate photographers. They included children from state primaries, independent schools, faith schools, special schools, pupil referral units and home educated pupils.
These class photos are brought together into a single large-scale installation, capturing tens of thousands of Year 3 pupils in what the Tate has called the “milestone year in their development.”
“There’s an urgency to reflect who we are and our future… to have a visual reflection on the people who make this city work. I think it’s important and, in some ways, urgent,” said McQueen.
Running parallel to the exhibition at Tate Britain, Artangel is staging an outdoor exhibition spanning London’s 33 boroughs, giving the public a glimpse of the future of their city.
The project features thousands of children with the hope of capturing their excitement, anticipation and hope through the medium of the traditional class photograph with rows of smiling children sitting or standing alongside their teachers.
McQueen, speaking to the BBC, explained why he chose to express his vision via the traditional school photograph, “The school photo is very formal. Kids are standing or sitting crossed legged with the teacher on the side.
I used to love that format – and it’s a photo that reflects on that class, the school and also reflects on society,” he said.