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Why Steve McQueen is Displaying Class Portraits across 613 London Billboards

London, UK
Oscar-winning director has elevated the humble school photo to foster a sense of belonging and encourage Londoners to think about the future, writes Laura Swinton
"The seeds of this project started 21 years ago with the birth of my first child, a milestone that put my own journey in perspective,” says director Steve McQueen.

He’s just launched an ambitious new project that has turned an annual tradition – the class portrait – into art on an epic scale. With Year 3, hundreds of primary school photos have been blown up and displayed on billboards across all of London’s 33 boroughs.

Cable Street, London Borough of Tower Hamlets 

In England and Wales, Year 3 pupils are aged 7 and 8 years old – in child development it marks a major point in their developing sense of identity, as they become more aware of the world beyond themselves and their family. The photography project explores this crucial time and the excitement and anticipation by playing with the traditional class portrait format, which sees children  sit or stand in rows with their teachers.
The project is a collaboration between McQueen, Tate Britain, Artangel and creative education agency A New Direction. 

Camden Road, London Borough of Camden

The portraits will be displayed on 613 billboards across London from 4-18 November 2019 – and from November 12 there’s also a vast, free exhibition at Tate Britain which features thousands of photos. 
James Lingwood, Co-Director of Artangel, curated the outdoor exhibition together with Artangel MD Cressida Day. "Year 3 is a resounding expression of Artangel's belief that art can be anywhere. It's a celebration of children and a question to the rest of us - what kind of future are we making for them?" says James.

 Walthamstow Tube Station, London Borough of Waltham Forest 

Traditionally, annual class portraits are published in local newspapers and Steve McQueen hopes this huge project will foster a similar sense of community and belonging. “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. 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.”

Chestnut Grove and Sherwood Park Road, London Borough of Merton 

Steve McQueen Year 3 is a partnership between Tate, Artangel and A New Direction. Supported by Joseph and Abigail Baratta, De Ying Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, with additional support from Dana and
Albert R. Broccoli Charitable Foundation, The Garcia Family Foundation, Wagner Foundation and Tate Americas Foundation. With media partner BBC London and film education charity partner Into Film.

Image Credits:
Steve McQueen Year 3. A partnership between Tate, Artangel and A New Direction
© Steve McQueen & Tate.
Courtesy of Artangel  
Billboards photographed in situ by Theo Christelis  
Work from LBB Editorial
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