Over the last 25 years McQueen (b.1969, London) has created some of the most innovative works of moving image designed for gallery spaces, as well as four critically acclaimed films for cinematic release: Hunger (2008), Shame (2010), 12 Years a Slave (2013) and Widows (2018). Spanning two decades of his career, the exhibition will reveal how McQueen’s pioneering approaches to filmmaking have expanded the ways in which artists work with the medium, creating poignant portraits of time and place.
Visitors to Tate Modern will be able to view personal and intimate works such as McQueen’s earliest film shot on a Super 8 camera, Exodus 1992/97, which reflects on migration and multiculturalism in his home city of London, and 7th Nov. 2001, in which the artist’s cousin Marcus recounts the tragic day he accidentally shot and fatally injured his own brother. These will be joined by immersive, large-scale video installations such as Western Deep 2002 and Static 2009. Originally commissioned for the landmark exhibition documenta XI, Western Deep presents an intense, sensory exploration of the labour conditions of gold miners in South Africa, while Static’s aerial depiction of the Statue of Liberty visually scrutinises a familiar and heavily symbolic figure that can rarely be inspected up close.
More recent work will include the haunting two-channel video installation Ashes 2002–15, offering a moving tribute to the memory of a young fisherman the artist met and filmed in Grenada in 2002, who was killed by drug dealers the following year. For the first time in the UK, audiences will be able to view End Credits 2012–ongoing, McQueen’s homage to the African-American singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson (1898–1976) who, after a successful career as a performer, was blacklisted in the 1950s and put under surveillance by the FBI. The work consists of rolling slides of the FBI’s reports on Robeson with a soundtrack of voices reading from the heavily-redacted documents. The exhibition will also feature Weight 2016, a sculpture first exhibited by Artangel at the recently closed Reading Gaol, where Oscar Wilde had been imprisoned and wrote De Profundis (1897). Presenting a gold-plated mosquito net draped over one of the prison’s metal bed-frames to create a shimmering apparition, Weight explores the relation between protection and confinement, the physical and the spiritual, and the redemptive power of the imagination.
This major exhibition coincides with McQueen’s latest artwork Year 3, on show at Tate Britain until 3 May 2020, an epic portrait of London’s Year 3 pupils created through a partnership between Tate, Artangel and A New Direction. Steve McQueen at Tate Modern is curated by Clara Kim, The Daskalopoulos Senior Curator, with Fiontán Moran, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern and is organised in collaboration with Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue featuring an in-depth interview with the artist and essays providing new insights into his work.
© Steve McQueen
Courtesy the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery
Photos by Luke Walker