Steve McQueen: Artist's 600 billboards of London pupils

Image source, Theo Christelis
Image caption,
One of three London billboards featuring Year 3 schoolchildren

A major outdoor art exhibition by an Oscar-winning artist has gone on display on billboards across London.

Turner Prize-winner and film-maker Steve McQueen's billboards show class photographs of thousands of children from the capital's schools.

The 613 posters across London's 33 boroughs, featuring Year 3 pupils, celebrates the idea of citizenship and reflects the diversity of London.

McQueen said the project was inspired 21 years ago after he became a father.

Image source, Steve McQueen
Image caption,
Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen (pictured fifth left in the middle row) as a seven-year-old pupil at Little Ealing Primary School in 1977

"My hope is that through the billboards, millions of Londoners can reflect on the past, the present and the future not only of themselves but of their city," he said.

"I am very excited that this portrait of London will be seen by so many people as part of their daily life in this great city that I love."

Some 76,000 children, two thirds of London's Year 3 pupils, were photographed for the accompanying exhibition at Tate Britain.

The Tate said: "Year 3 is considered a milestone year in a child's development and sense of identity, when seven-and eight-year-olds become more conscious of a much bigger world beyond their immediate family.

"Steve McQueen's project captures this moment of excitement, anticipation and hope through the medium of the traditional class photograph, with rows of smiling children sitting or standing alongside their teachers."

Image source, Theo Christelis
Image caption,
Billboard with a photograph of a Year Three class

McQueen was born in London in 1969 and after becoming a renowned artist, he went on to make films Hunger, Shame, Widows and the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave.

When he started the project McQueen said: "When you first start education, things start to change. When you start being aware of gender, when you start being aware of race. When you start being aware of class.

"When those things come into your psyche - it can actually change your thoughts forever."

Image source, BBC London
Image caption,
McQueen had invited all Year 3 pupils in London to take part in the project

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On why he chose to express his vision via the traditional school photograph, McQueen said: "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.

"So a message that can be so local - when moulded with the other photographs - can become global."

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