Image: Tate / Jessica McDermott

Steve McQueen hopes Year 3 artwork will inspire schoolchildren across London

Simon Stephens, 13.11.2019
More than 76,000 Year 3 children from 1,504 primary schools took part 
Turner Prize-winning artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen is hoping his new artwork, Year 3, will inspire schoolchildren across London to be creative and fulfil their potential.

More than 76,000 Year 3 children from 1,504 primary schools took part in the project, which opened this week at Tate Britain. A team of Tate photographers took 3,128 class photographs, which are now all on display in the Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain.  

The project is supported by an education programme that has invited hundreds of schools to Tate Britain during the exhibition, which runs until 3 May 2020.

“School trips were hugely important to me, with your packed lunch, the excitement of getting on the bus and you enter this space and you are trying to grapple with everything,” said McQueen, who was born in London in 1969.

“It expands people’s minds and their possibilities and that is a necessity. This project is about creating a path for children to grow and to go beyond their own expectations," he said.

The 76,146 children in the photographs comprise two-thirds of the seven and eight-year-olds living in London, according to Tate. Creative education specialist A New Direction led an outreach campaign to recruit and engage the primary schools. As part of this, pupils participated in workshops on the project’s themes of identity and belonging. At the end of the exhibition, the photos will be given to the schools and Tate will store digital versions.

“I am just passionate about the work,” McQueen said. “I remember going into the National Portrait Gallery and the only black people that I saw were the guards. Art school was my liberation. That was where I could achieve my goals and sort of realise myself.  

“To offer that opportunity to every single kid, that they can go in any direction they want to, whether it is literature, science, fashion or even accountancy, that creativity is very important and it makes for better human beings.”

The project also involves a city-wide outdoor exhibition organised by Artangel, which runs until 18 November. It will see many of the Year 3 photographs featured on 613 billboards across all London’s 33 boroughs.

McQueen’s previous work includes Queen and Country, which commemorates the deaths of British soldiers in Iraq by presenting their portraits as a sheet of stamps, and the video installation Ashes, which highlights the violence and wasteful deaths of many young Caribbean men. His films include Hunger, 12 Years a Slave and Widows.

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