Among the most arresting public art I've ever seen ★★★★ Evening Standard
Unassailable in its grandeur ★★★★ The Observer
Steve McQueen’s epic portrait of London’s year 3 pupils was presented on billboards across London in November 2019 and is exhibited at Tate Britain until 31 January 2021.
Year 3 is one of the most ambitious visual portraits of citizenship ever undertaken in one of the world’s largest and most diverse cities.
Every primary school in London was invited to take part in the project in 2018. 1,504 schools of every kind – state, independent, faith and special-needs schools – took up the invitation and a total of 3,168 class photographs were taken in 2018 and early 2019. All the photographs take the form of a traditional class photo, with children sitting and standing in rows together with their teachers and teaching assistants.
Year 3 is considered a milestone year in a child’s development: when they start to be more aware of being part of a bigger world beyond their families and friendship groups. The individual class photos are a microcosm of society blown up into monumental billboards or gathered together in an epic group portrait. Looking directly at the camera, the children face the photographer and the viewer, the present and the future.
Image: Steve McQueen, Year 3. A partnership between Tate, Artangel and A New Direction. © Steve McQueen & Tate. Courtesy of Artangel. Billboard photographed in situ by Theo Christelis.
I wanted to explore the ideas of the future in the present – Steve McQueen
Artist and director Steve McQueen was joined online by Artangel Co-Director James Lingwood to discuss the artist’s work with Artangel over the years. Following this conversation, the artist answered questions from the live audience on YouTube and those posted across social media on the hashtag #ArtangelIsOpen.
This event took place online 19:00 BST Monday 4 May 2020 and was streamed live from Accelerator, Sweden.
Image: Steve McQueen on the Victoria line platform at Pimlico Underground station viewing his work Year 3. Photograph: Clare Morris. Year 3 is a partnership between Tate, Artangel and A New Direction.
Large-scale images of year 3 class photographs featured on over 600 billboards across all 33 London boroughs in November 2019. It was one of the most wide-reaching public art exhibitions ever presented across the city.
Around 7 million people came across the billboards on the side of busy main roads and high streets. They appeared on over 200 railway platforms and 100 London Underground stations – including a platform takeover at Pimlico Underground station that saw 16 billboards on one platform.
The billboards by the side of the road and at railway stations were put up between 4 and 8 November and taken down between 18 and 22 November. The billboards at London Underground stations were all up by 7 November and taken down between 13 and 21 November.
This exhibition was nominated for the Outdoor Media Awards 2020 in the Community Social Impact and Installation and Experience Award categories.
Image: Year 3 as seen at Loughborough Junction. Photograph: Theo Christelis. Year 3 is a partnership between Tate, Artangel and A New Direction.
All 3,128 photographs of Year 3 classes were installed as an epic single work on the walls of the Duveen Galleries at the heart of Tate Britain.
The class photos depict 76,146 children from 1,504 London primary schools. That’s two-thirds of the city’s entire population of seven- to eight-year-olds.
The Tate Britain exhibition was originally programmed 12 November 2019 until 3 May 2020. All Tate galleries closed on the evening of 17 March 2020 due to COVID-19 and are due to re-open 27 July 2020. The Year 3 exhibition has been extended until 31 January 2021.
Image: A class that was part of this exhibition visiting Tate Britain. Photograph: David Lennon © Tate
Artist and director Steve McQueen first collaborated with Artangel on Caribs’ Leap / Western Deep, an immersive cinematic installation that premiered at Documenta X in Kassel and in an underground space in London in 2002.
In 2016, McQueen installed a new sculpture – Weight – in a cell in Reading Prison as part of Artangel’s project, Inside.
The collaboration continued with Year 3 which, in 2019, resulted in one of the most ambitious visual portraits of citizenship ever undertaken, in one of the world’s largest and most diverse cities.
Steve McQueen is perhaps best known for his feature films Hunger, Shame, and Widows. These movies are just one element of a wide-ranging body of work in film and video which has seen McQueen win the Turner Prize in 1999, the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008, and an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2014.
A major survey of Steve McQueen’s work was presented at Tate Modern in 2020.
Images: (left) Image: Steve McQueen Year 3 Portrait ©Tate. Photography: Jessica McDermott; (above) Steve McQueen portrait. Courtesy BBC London. © Tate
There is true delight to be found in the detail of these pictures. The joy on the faces of these children and their teachers pays testament to the work each photographer did to make them feel comfortable. Here is gorgeous, vivid portraiture, miles away, actually, from the standard class photograph – Serena Davies, The Telegraph
From a distance the work forms a multicoloured patchwork of uniforms and school backgrounds all shot in the same format. Then closer up you are drawn into the glorious individuality of these seven and eight year olds—smiling, serious, alert, some neat, some scruffy, some pulling faces—all at a key moment in their development and with their futures ahead of them. – Louisa Buck, The Art Newspaper, 12 November 2019
Year 3 made me proud of London, though, in all its joyous inclusivity, in all its appreciation of difference, and variety. At a time when this mass delusion of a monocultural, white England is being inflicted upon so many of us, Year 3 made my heart sing and I felt, for the first time in a long while, hope.– Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, i News, 24 November 2019
The posters are unadorned bar the hashtag #Year3project. No mention of McQueen, Tate, the producers Artangel or anyone else, just the children, their teachers and teaching assistants, gazing out at you. It’s among the most arresting public art I’ve ever seen. – Ben Luke, Evening Standard, 13 November 2019
The best thing about Steve McQueen’s ‘Year 3’ project is imagining all the gammon-faced, xenophobic, anti-immigration bigots it’s going to get frothing with rage. Because the artist and filmmaker’s project is a brazen, forthright, unapologetic celebration of multi-cultural London. – Eddy Frankel, Time Out, November 2019
There is true delight to be found in the detail of these pictures. The joy on the faces of these children and their teachers pays testament to the work each photographer did to make them feel comfortable. Here is gorgeous, vivid portraiture, miles away, actually, from the standard class photograph. And furthermore, not every image is quite as identikit as it might first appear, with smaller groups and special needs classes requiring a relaxation of McQueen’s rigid format.” – Serena Davies, The Telegraph, 11 November 2019
There may be no single meaning to “Year 3”, but that doesn’t make it without social significance. Looking up at a whole generation of young Londoners, I find myself flooded with a mix of awe, curiosity, nostalgia and optimism. Though the portraits take the same general format, I start noticing the differences between them: the girls wearing checked summer dresses and those wearing woolly tights; the classes standing in gyms in front of decades-old PE apparatus and those in classrooms painted a pristine white; the students in blazers and ties and those who don’t wear a uniform at all. Most of all, when whiteness is frustratingly dominant in the UK’s most established art institutions, it is joyous to see many faces from all different backgrounds fill the walls – a true celebration of our brilliantly diverse capital city.– Ellen Pierson-Hagger, New Statesman, 20 November 2019
Who made this possible?
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.
Artangel is generously supported using public funding by Arts Council England, and by the private patronage of The Artangel International Circle, Special Angels, Guardian Angels and The Company of Angels.