Director Steve McQueen begins project to photograph every year 3 pupil in London

Clarisse Loughrey
Artist Steve McQueen (middle row, fifth left) will embark on an ambitious contemporary art project to create a portrait of all of London's Year 3 school pupils: Tate/PA Wire

Director Steve McQueen has launched his most ambitious project yet.

Though best known for his film work, having directed 12 Years a Slave and the upcoming Widows, McQueen is also a Turner-Prize winning visual artist.

His latest will see him embark on a mission to photograph every Year 3 school pupil in London, overseeing the class portraits of tens of thousands of schoolchildren from across the capital over the next nine months.

McQueen says the project is the result of an "urgency to reflect on who we are and where we come from and what is the future". The work aims to capture the mixture of excitement, anxiety, and hope of such a milestone year in a person's life, with the seven and eight-year-olds captured through the traditional medium of the class photograph.

Approximately 115,000 children in London are currently in Year 3, across 2,410 different primary schools. The photographs will also include their teachers and teaching assistants, with McQueen hoping the work will also proudly display the diversity of the city and its potential for the future.

"At some point in one's life you tend to look backwards and you ask 'Where is so and so?' and 'What's happened to them?' It was one of those things where I just wanted to reflect also on how I got to where I got to," McQueen said, while unveiling the project at Tate Britain.

"I just wanted to reflect back on a certain point in my life where things changed and things churned. People have passed and died, people are doing well, not doing well. Those kind of trajectories, those kinds of paths, I wanted to go back to the beginning of a certain kind of consciousness."

"We all live in London and we all think we know London but we don't, and to have a reflection on that I think is quite urgent."

The resulting artwork, titled Steve McQueen: Year 3, will be displayed at London's Tate Britain and around the capital next autumn. Tate director Maria Balshaw said it "may well be the most ambitious artwork we have ever shown at Tate Britain".

The installation of the photographs will take over the Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain from November 2019 to May 2020, which will be free to visit. Outdoor exhibitions of the photographs will also be created across each of London's 33 boroughs.

The project will also coincide with a major survey of McQueen's work at Tate Modern, open from February to May 2020.

Every London primary school is invited to register at to choose a date and time for a session. The visits will be undertaken by a Tate photographer, briefed by McQueen.

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