Steve McQueen looks to the future

If Steve McQueen and Tate’s intention with the Year 3 project was to get young children engaged with art, it’s working. It’s currently receiving visits from more than 600 schoolchildren daily at Tate Britain.

Explored through the vehicle of the traditional school class photograph, this new art work by the Turner-Prize winning artist and Oscar-winning filmmaker is one of the most ambitious portraits of children ever undertaken in the UK.


Alpha Preparatory School Steve Mcqueen Tate 

Alpha Preparatory School © Steve McQueen & Tate

Portrait Of Steve Mcqueen In Year 3 At Tate Britain 1 Tate Photo Jessica Mcdermott

Portrait of Steve McQueen in Year 3 at Tate Britain ©Tate. Photo Jessica McDermott

By inviting every Year 3 pupil in London ­– including children from state primaries, independent schools, faith schools, special schools, pupil referral units and home-educated pupils ­– to have their photograph taken by a team of specially trained Tate photographers, McQueen has created a hopeful glimpse of the capital’s future. It comprises 3,128 class photographs and 76,146 children – two-thirds of the city’s population of seven-to-eight-year olds. 

The exhibition is also free to visit, and pupils featured will be visiting with their schools to see their photograph up close in dedicated learning spaces and to take part in activities that explore the exhibition themes. At the end of the exhibition each picture will also be returned to the school where the photograph was taken.

Installation View 1 Steve Mcqueen Year 3 At Tate Britain Tate


Installation View 3 Steve Mcqueen Year 3 At Tate Britain Tate


Installation View 4 Steve Mcqueen Year 3 At Tate Britain Tate

Steve McQueen Year 3 at Tate Britain © Tate

Created through a partnership between Tate, Artangel and A New Direction, the hope for its lasting legacy is that an arts-rich curriculum will be available to all, and not just those that are privately educated. Tate has already pledged its support for the schools involved in the Year 3 project in the form of the development of digital and learning resources, gallery visits, study days and workshops. 

Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate, said: “Access to the visual arts in this country must not depend on social and economic advantage. Private schools place a premium on a rich cultural education for their pupils while many state schools are starved of the resources to support access to culture and creativity for their pupils. We need a level cultural playing field for all children because we want and need visually literate adults. There should be fair access to arts in line with the offer to pupils in Scotland and Wales where the arts are already a core commitment.”

Steve McQueen added: “When I was a kid, I remember my first trip to Tate. It was a real eye-opener. It was wonderful to see an explosion of ideas and creativity, visual creativity. It gave me an understanding that anything is possible.

“The curriculum needs to be big enough to include all subjects and be for all children. Art and creativity are so important to science, to maths, or to any other academic venture. Cutting arts education means you cut off inventiveness which impacts on being creative. We have many great artists, great thinkers and inventors in the UK and this has come through a sense of possibility. Arts education gives that sense of possibility. I hope Year 3 will spark opportunities for long-term creativity.”

Steve McQueen Year 3 will run until 3 May 2020 at Tate Britain.